Learning to think about web sites like products

 

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The next time you work on a web site, be it a new build or just an overhaul of an existing one, think about it less in terms of what you need to get it done and more like a product that you will sell and support into the future.

Here are some questions you may want to consider:

How will your web site grow after its built?

Do you have a plan for how your web site will grow? It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but setting a roadmap for where you will be getting new content to add as well as where it will come from can be extremely important. Many people go into a new web site build with the best of intentions. “I’ll just build this site and then I’ll be done.” In the real world this doesn’t work. Sites can become stale. Technology changes, often. Google rewards sites which are updated frequently, etc.

How will you market your web site?

“If you build it, they will come” isn’t a mantra I’d hang my hat on when it comes to driving traffic to your web site. Making time to market your site properly isn’t optional, so you will want to think about this up front as well. If you are building a blog, you will want to make sure you share links to your new content on your social channels, have it optimized for search and reach out to influencers who can help to get the word out about it.

If it is a business site you’ve built you still need to market it. You might choose to use paid means like Google AdWords, or perhaps you’ll invest more in inbound marketing tactics like email marketing, social or PR. Don’t forget about offline vehicles to drive traffic to your site including television, print or radio. Believe it or not, some of the more “traditional” marketing tactics are still the most effective.

How will you incorporate your customers (visitors) feedback to improve?

The hard work involved in building a web site doesn’t end when it goes live.  On the contrary, the work has just begun! So enjoy the moment (I advise champagne) but roll up your sleeves because the moment after you launch your site you should start thinking about version 2.0.

And don’t forget to ask your users both directly (and indirectly via Google Analytics) what they like. Ask them what you can improve on, too. If you have done the work to market your web site then you’ll already have a pretty good idea who your visitors are already. At least, you will know what they are looking for. If you have built your site around solving user problems or filling needs (which you should’ve) then ask them – is this web site serving you? If it isn’t, what can I do better?

How will you bring in other internal/external resources to help you build? How will you inspire them?

Assuming you aren’t taking on the daunting task of building a site on your own, you’ll need to bring in others to help. Maybe it is a programmer to code forms or build interactivity into your site. Perhaps its a designer to help you communicate visually or design a user experience.  On a recent site build I made sure to incorporate the feedback of multiple departments within the company from the very outset. I asked questions like:

“How can we make this site to better serve your departments need’s?”

“Help me understand how we can more effectively communicate what you do?”

“I want to find a way to showcase all the awesome stuff you guys are doing. Can you provide me more information?”

Take a queue from Steve Jobs who talks about art. “Artists sign their work.” The early Mac development team signed the interior of the case that the original Macintosh shipped with. Think about having a web site credits page where you celebrate the contributions of everyone on the team to building the site. Throw a party for the folks who worked long hours to supply you with content, or take photos or edit video. Make them feel like its their site too and they will have a much larger stake in its success (and you’ll get a much better site to boot!).

 

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