The Cogs of Website Strategy

When taking on the creation the a new website, the strategy behind the whole project plays a major role in making sure that the end result is something that will work for you rather than against you.

When we use the word strategy, many things can come to mind. It is a broad term. When making a website, it is best if strategy usually takes place before writing any code or making any designs. It will prevent a lot of backtracking and help the project team focus. Here we will discuss a few important cogs of website strategy and take a look at how they impact the project.

Your Users

If you don’t think about the people that will be using your website, you will be in trouble right from the start. If you don’t make something that works for them, they won’t want to spend any time on your site and won’t find it helpful, and that can hurt your bottom line and your reputation.

It is best to try to come up with at least 2-3 personas that represent the typical types of people that might use your website. For each persona, try to create an imaginary person. Give them a name, an age, a gender. Are they married? Do they have kids? What sort of job do they have? What sort of income do they have? What types of problems do they have that brought them to your website? What will your website provide to them to help them solve their problems?

If you can answer these types of questions and create a few personas for your project, you will have a much better idea of what features and content might be useful.

Your Business Goals

Making a website is great and all, but how is it going to affect your bottom line? It is important to understand the driving goal behind creating a website in the first place, and how it will impact your business. You don’t want to create a website that has no purpose or drive behind it, it will just become a headache that doesn’t do anything positive for you if that happens.

Most websites have just a few main business goals. Typical goals are things like creating leads or selling products. Think about the reasons that you decided to build a website in the first place, or consult with an expert get ideas for what a website can do to help you attain your business goals.

The Features

Thinking of your goals and target users, what do you want your website to do in order to reach those goals and help those users? This is how you start to build a list of features.

List out all the things your website needs to do to support those goals. Treat this like a brainstorm at first, listing out just about everything you can come up with that holds some value.

After you have your wishlist of features, you can review the list and decide what is actually attainable or desirable and narrow things down to a manageable size for your first version of the new website. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew, but you don’t want to leave out any key features either.

Don’t be afraid to break out your list of features into phases. Many great websites start small with a specific focus, and then build up over time adding more features and content to serve the users.

That is what is great about your website, it is software. You can keep evaluating how well it is working, add new features, make new versions and keep improving it in small increments over time.

The Visuals

Before creating any layouts for the website, it helps to create a visual strategy. This is essentially a brand guide for your website. If you have an existing brand guide, many organizations do, this can serve as a good portion of the visual strategy for the website.

The visual strategy should cover things like photography, icons and buttons, color schemes, fonts and emotions.

How are photos going to be used in the website and how should the photographs be produced to have a consistent feel throughout? What will the various buttons and graphical elements look like throughout the designs? What colors will be used, and how will they be combined? What fonts will be used for headings, paragraphs and page titles? What types of emotions will your design convey?

The Content

The page content of a website will usually consist of text, images and photos. That sounds easy enough, just write up some quick paragraphs for each page and drop in some stock photos, right? Not exactly.

You want to make sure your content is concise, effective and organized in a way that is usable by your website visitors. You don’t want anybody to get frustrated trying to find information on your site. Each page has a purpose, and you should consider how people will arrive at and use that page.

A content strategy, on the most basic level, would involve listing out all of the content elements that need to be on the website, and then assign some additional information to each element to help describe its purpose and who is responsible for providing or creating it. Then from there, determine a site map and how each piece of content will fit into the pages on the site map. It’s like a big puzzle. Once all of the pieces are fit into the right places, you have a basic idea of the page structure of your website and how all your content will fit into those pages. And you also will know how you are going to obtain or create all the content.

The Sitemap

The sitemap for most websites consists of a list of pages and will outline some sort of hierarchy of information. This information can be used to understand the full scope of your website content, design the navigation of the website and determine how users will get from page to page or hop between different sections of the website.

The Wireframes

Wireframing can help you understand how the page structure will be organized before spending a lot of time on the final graphical layouts. This is a crucial step that can help bring many of the other strategy elements together. This is where you will start to get a feel for how the layout of your pages will look.

Wireframes will usually specify how all of the elements are positioned on the page. These are typically then handed off to the designers and developers so they have direction during the design and coding, much like how a contractor builds a building by following the blueprints provided by an architect.

Conclusion

These are some of the major cogs of web strategy, and they should not be overlooked. If you put some serious thought into each one of these pieces, you will find that you have a clear goal of what you want to build and it will be a lot easier to guide your team through the process of creating an effective website.

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