Entrepreneurs are becoming increasingly aware of how important their online presence is to the future their business.
Technology and online marketing are evolving so fast that you may be losing business because your website doesn’t support the features that customers—or search engines—want.
If your website platform is outdated, successful entrepreneurs take action and ask the question, “Where do we start?”
1. Start your web development project
Before starting a website project make sure to consider the following:
- Who on your team will support a four-to-six month project?
- What is your website budget?
- How will you know whether your project is a success?
Validate whether or not the techie on your staff or existing web development provider has the skills to achieve your digital goals. It might be time to look at other options. No hard feelings; you may have just outgrown them.
Separating from your current website development firm without giving them a fair chance to prove they can handle your new website project should be avoided, if possible, especially if you don’t have access to all your digital assets. Try to stay friends.
2. Build the foundation
Just like an engineer wouldn’t start a building without blueprints, you must have a plan that sets out must-haves and nice-to-haves. Often there is a wish list from different stakeholders that can inflate budgets, create scope creep and delay launch without necessarily supporting your business objectives.
At the BDC, we strongly recommend you look at your business and marketing plans, brand, value proposition, customer/market segmentation, technology needs and existing digital assets. You can then draft a detailed requirements document for the new website taking into account the most important tools to increase sales, automate tasks and increase customer satisfaction in the next 12-24 months.
There is no short-cut when drafting a build requirements document. Make sure the person or firm assigned to this task has all the necessary industry, online marketing and technology skills required.
3. Find the right partner
Once you have the requirements documented there are lots of options on how to develop the new website. You can buy an out-of-the-box solution with a monthly fee; use a freelance web developer; or hire a full-service web agency.
Based upon our experience with 200-plus website development projects we encourage opting for a well-established web development firm in Canada that understands your technology, budget and business needs. Design skill is also an important consideration because if you don’t like the look of your site, there’s a high probability you won’t spend time on it and neither will your customers.
If you aren’t already working with a web development firm, a request for proposals for the project can be a good idea. But beware—geek-speak, technology and scope review can make for a long vetting process if you invite more than a few bidders. Keep it simple and try to keep the selection process to around a month.
4. Manage your web development project
Once you have identified the right firm, make sure to sign a contract that includes your build requirements and milestones with specific dates. Once the project starts, supervise the process because there will always be unexpected things that occur. If you’re involved, they won’t come out of the blue.
One area where a lot of entrepreneurs get stuck is writing. That’s why we highly recommend using a professional copywriter for content creation. Legal and tax considerations, back office systems, domain name, etc. are other elements that can become show stoppers if not flagged early and dealt with.
If your web firm uses an agile project management delivery method make sure your team is comfortable with the time/availability this will require during the project.
5. Track your progress and celebrate your new website!
Make sure you understand what you’re reviewing at each phase so you can sign off on the deliverables (as defined in the build requirements document) with confidence.
Also, make sure you track any bugs with your web partner and confirm an analytics solution is in place from day one to measure your performance. If it’s an e-commerce website test every step of the ordering process to ensure a smooth client experience and optimal sale conversion.
Beyond a post-launch warranty, the web firm should also provide a security and maintenance program to keep your website up to date. This is important.
Celebrate the new website and get early feedback from current customers, partners and suppliers since they know your business and former website. Immediately start tracking optimization suggestions and prioritize them based upon your business goals.
So what’s next?
Remember that launching your website is just the beginning of a fantastic journey. You’ll be able to measure all online activity, constantly optimize the online experience you are providing customers and work to boost your conversion rate with a clear focus on where you want your company to be in the next 12-to-24 months.
Follow these simple steps and if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to us. If you’ve just launched a new website let us know what went well and what could have gone better.
Have you already started working on your marketing strategy for 2016?