The increasing importance of websites as a method of customer engagement is sending more and more companies back to the drawing board. Changes in user technology and search engine algorithms are setting new challenges, but do provide new opportunities. For companies looking to relaunch a website in 2016, user experience and website scalability need to be high on the list of requirements set out in a website brief.
Here are a few questions that need to be addressed before your website designer opens the wireframe software:
What’s the long term strategy?
Let’s take a step back for a moment. Before you send your website designer off to work magic to provide your company with an all singing website, franchise management needs to be clear about what the business is looking to accomplish, in the short term and the long term. By setting this out, web designers can deliver a website that will help the franchise business achieve its aims – whether that be ensuring that e-commerce capability is built into the website, or that the site can adapt to planned changes in the company model. Done well, a website can become a valuable tool that works for your business, rather than just a shop window for your services, so make sure that a new website brief is informed by your wider company strategy.
Are your expectations realistic?
For the designer, the brief that is provided by the client is the blueprint and the bible rolled into one. It has to adhere to the end objectives, and budgets should be clearly set and stated.
What leads to spiralling project costs and delays will be changing the brief once work has commenced, often as a result of the project scope or website purpose being misunderstood. It is important to hold realistic expectations about how long a project will take to complete, including necessary tasks such as user interface and user experience testing, and the costs involved to deliver a website that will provide your company with a value adding asset. There's obviously cynicism that costs will be inflated if a big budget is spotted, however a website project is totally scalable; a budget should be the amount a client has set aside for a project and fully used to achieve the various objectives.
Are you embracing the mobile revolution?
By Q2 in 2016, it is forecast that there will be 43 million mobile internet users in the UK. Everyone using a tablet or smartphone will be able to access the internet in some capacity. This year marked a watershed moment in our internet usage – now, more searches are done on mobile devices, rather than desktop units. Technology is changing the way we interact, and the way we use data and information, so your franchise website needs to be up to the challenge. Many new websites are built with mobile capability, but use your website designer to find mobile solutions to existing business problems – whether that is sales conversion, or customer care services.
And here are two cautionary pieces of advice based on hard-worn experience:
Put in place a clear project manager, with power of decision making
Website projects can definitely prove the saying ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’. Successful projects are based on clear communication and decision making process between the client and the designer. The projects that work and are kept on schedule are the ones that stick to an agreed brief and are marshalled by one or two people client side, once a plan has been agreed and ratified by necessary stakeholders.
Ensure you have a website launch strategy
The launch of a new company website is more than just window dressing. It should mark a new stage in the development of the company, a new direction, a renewal of the way you engage with your customer base. The hard work doesn’t stop once your new website is live. There needs to be clear communication throughout your customer and prospect network on the new site capabilities, through a strong social platform outreach campaign, as well as targeted use of SEO and PPC, to drive traffic to your new online hub.
By Dave Bowers, Head of Design at web design and digital marketing agency Evolutia.
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