When Your Website Project is More Than a Website

Developing a website is often like pioneering the Great West. There are what seems like endless possibilities, and you envision an expansive property that will change your economic outlook forever.

Until you start getting to work, then you realize your vision is a bigger undertaking than you thought. It could be your budget or it could be launch deadlines, but either way, you’ll need to prioritize. It’s important to know that much of what you see in your grand vision may not actually be a “website” at all.

Okay first, What’s a website?

A website consists of the following components:

  • The interface

  • The code

  • And a never-ending list of potential data, visual content, written content, interactive features, sounds, and more.

This is obviously quite a simplification, but this demonstrates the fact that there is a lot to think about. In this article, we’re going to briefly cover the last of the above list so you can create a sound plan for your new website or website update.

A Brand.

The first thing your website needs that isn’t a website is a brand. If you know, you know, and it may feel like it goes without saying, but it does not. It’s common for companies to use the development of their website as an exercise in developing their brand. This is a great idea actually! But that means that you’ll need to take a step back and allow the planning of your website to expand beyond addressing how a visitor flows through your site to make a purchase and connect with you. In addition, you’ll need to consider color standards, logo and texture, typography, approach to messaging, and your brand voice. Branding can at times be a big undertaking, but executing a brand in the context of a website allows you to build your brand in a real-life setting, instead of a theoretical one.

To dive into this:

  • Allocate budgeted time to work out the brand kinks

  • Focus some effort on brand design standard elements

  • Study your market including competitors and customers

Content

Website copy is like a tootsie pop, most people bite off more than they can chew. Creating content for your website is time-consuming, and it’s notoriously underestimated how much a website update can change the content requirements from the old site to the new one. Where we see the most barriers is when there is not a clear purpose for each page based on the audience (your customer, donor, etc.). Start by examining what questions your customer may ask, and what you want them to walk away with. Develop content that serves as a guide to provide or help them find the answer. After this, delete every page that doesn’t have a purpose based on the needs and wants of your audience.

To picture what content is helpful, consider that the content on your site is essentially the same answer you might give to a customer directly when they ask a question (except please have someone proof it). I recommend you start with a content outline. This content might be the same content you use in an ad, on a brochure, or in a sales conversation, but adapted for the environment it will be used.

Speaking of environment, here are some important points to consider when it comes to content on your website. Be sure to consider headlines, bite-size sections, images, infographics, and videos to help people process your message and to help search engines find your content.

To dive into this:

  • Determine the common questions your audience will have

  • Craft page content as a guide to help them get an answer

  • Organize content in a way that is helpful and delete the fluff

Photography

Pictures help make messaging impactful, but they can also make your message cheesy if you’re not careful. It’s easy to sideline photography in a website budget, but don’t do it! While some stock photography can be okay, original photography will represent your brand best.

Depending on your business, brand photography could include product photos, photos depicting the customer context, ambient photography to create a mood, and even digitally rendered graphics depending on the need. To develop a plan, start with your content outline, as mentioned above, and determine what images will best help you deliver what you need to communicate, perhaps you’ll have a shot list that comes out of this. The direction for photos is a brand-wide decision, so keep in mind that an investment in images for your website is an investment for your entire brand experience.

To dive into this:

  • Start with a content outline

  • Determine the mood and context

  • Remember that photography is a brand-wide investment

Video

Some of the best websites are actually just 30-second commercials. While you likely have lots to say about your business, the most important thing is getting to the point so a visitor knows your website is the place to be. Consider developing an impact video that delivers your value proposition creatively, and in seconds. Developing a video is a wholly different project than a website, but it could be the content that enhances your website’s performance. It’s also a way to connect with more people by offering a variety of content types. In this case, your written content is a draft “script” for your video or at least a basis for the video’s messaging.

When you’re filming this video, be sure to capture some photos too because this will come in handy for your website’s content library.

To dive into this:

  • Use written content as the video’s draft script

  • Focus on delivering the value proposition

  • Make sure to capture photos

A Launch Campaign

It may be assumed that “turning on” your website is included in the pricing, but you might need to do just a little bit more than that. A new website for most businesses is a big milestone. It could be a strategy to increase sales through a stronger customer experience or the launch of a new brand. This is the appropriate time to make a marketing splash and drive customer engagement.

At a minimum, put together a digital media strategy, including email blasts and timed social media posts. This can create at least short-lived momentum, but it can also be an opportunity to get some real-time feedback on your website’s performance so you can address any bugs or content gaps.

To dive into this:

  • Determine what you expect from a launch

  • Create a digital launch strategy with your own media platforms

  • Collect immediate feedback for improvements

Traffic

The process of building a website can be exhausting, and it’s not out of the ordinary to get a little winded once a site is pushed live (at least figuratively). It’s important to know that developing and launching a website is just the beginning. Driving traffic takes a lot of work, and keeping a site relevant to your customers is not to be overlooked. Here are some things to consider:

  • Digital advertising campaigns

  • Search engine optimization

  • Related digital properties like social media and knowledge graphs

  • Ongoing content development and a content calendar

For more on this topic, here’s another in-depth article on the process of building a website.

Read: “What to consider when considering a new website.

Sign up here for regular content from us to aid in your digital marketing and branding decisions.