Over the past 9 or 10 months, I’ve adapted for different audiences a presentation about the value of good planning for website development projects. As it has evolved, I realize that what had started out as a comprehensive “How to” guide for planning successful website projects has added a significant “Why” component, as well.
And as valuable as it is to learn about strategy statements, key performance indicators, site maps, wireframes, and so on, the audiences have become most animated about the Why.
Thinking about that now, that shift should have been obvious all along. I mean, just because you create the documents I listed above doesn’t mean you’re going to get a great website. It just means you’re going to get a better website, with less pain and frustration, than if you didn’t have those documents.
But the Why of the process can make it much more likely that your new website will achieve what it was designed to achieve. Let’s look at, well, why that is.
Knowing Why You’re Building a Website Reduces Risk
As a marketer considering a new website, you’ll never say no to saving time and money. That’s understandable. But the lowest possible cost and quickest possible turn-around are rarely your main motivation. Knowing that your new site is going to work is far more valuable.
To put it another way, decreasing your departmental costs by 2% may get you a better bonus at the end of the year. Presiding over a big, fat, hairy, expensive failure may get you fired.
So a solid development plan needs to probe for the underlying business goals, tie the website’s functionality and features into achieving those business goals and providing ample opportunity to measure, evaluate, and correct against whatever KPIs are identified as top priority.
Generally that means identifying key audience segments and addressing their needs. Which means that your planning docs only really reduce risk if their created with those goals in mind.
The Importance of Perspective: Why Does Your Client Care About You?
One of the key ways we can reduce the risk of failure is by creating a process in which we evaluate what the website will do and how it will do it based on the audience’s perspective. What problem are they trying to solve? What other options are they considering? What might keep them from taking action at all? How long might they take to make a decision? And so on.
If you answer those questions and use the answers you arrive at in your planning documents, you’re almost guaranteeing that you’ll build a site that appeals to the target audience.
Otherwise, you wind up focusing on things like your team’s decades of combined experience and the fancy advanced degrees your principals all hold. Your prospects don’t care about any of that until you make them care. Once you’ve convinced them that your offering is the solution to their problem, then they’ll begin to look at your credentials as they compare you to other firms offering the same or similar solutions. Until then, they’re focused on themselves and their problems. Your website should be, too.
There’s no way to eliminate the chance of sub-optimal results entirely, but if you create a planning process that focuses on the Why – particularly on your audience’s Why – you stand a much greater chance of seeing a successful outcome.
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