Web site objectives
Before you even contact a web designer to create your online presence you need to determine what are your online aims and objectives. In the creation of these objectives you need to ensure they are:
This will ensure that you can properly monitor the success of your online activities, and provide you with a clear understanding of what you want your web presence to achieve.
In terms of the types of objective, these can be any number of things, but typically they include the following areas:
- To sell
- To better serve customers
- To reduce costs
- To build your brand image
- To communicate with the outside world
Once you have clearly defined your online and web site’s objectives, you can move on to the next stage of determining your audience.
Web site targets
Knowing who you want to target is important for a number of reasons. Firstly who you target will impact on whether you need a web site, and if you do how it will be presented and the functionality to be provided, secondly it will determine what messages need to be conveyed through the web site and thirdly it will determine whether you need to segment the information presented on your web site and if you do, provide you with an idea how to do it.
In determining your targets, its really important you understand their individual needs, as this will ensure that your web site specifically caters for your visitor needs. So you are not wasting valuable time and money trying to second guess whether the functionality provided will be used or not.
Web site messages
Closely linked to both your objectives and targets is the messages that you want to convey. The messages you wish to convey will impact on all aspects of your web site from the visual, through to the content and functionality.
For instance how do you want your audience to perceive you, this can include any number of message, such as:
- High quality
- Low cost
- Customer service
For example a web site that wants to convey excellent customer service, may provide an online helpdesk – providing customers with the ability to gain help 24 hours a day. An organisation who is looking to convey an image of low cost is likely to provide a more simplistic web site, which conveys a perception of a cheap alternative.
Web site strategy
Once you have clarified your objectives, targets and messages, you can start thinking about the type of online strategy that would be most appropriate to your organisational requirements. This tends to be focused around one of six levels:
- No web presence
- Basic web presence
- Static informational web site
- Simple interactive web site
- Interactive site supporting user transactions
- Fully interactive site supporting the entire purchasing process
So for instance if you wanted a basic informational web site consisting of two or three that you didn’t need to update on a regular basis, you would probably be looking at a basic web presence. However, if you wanted an e-commerce web site that would link into your offline inventory system, allow customers to manage themselves and provide marketing tools to support the entire purchasing process, a fully interactive web site is likely to be more appropriate to your needs.
However in determining the type of web site, time and cost considerations need to be made, as the more advanced the web site, the more time and cost is required for its development.
Online Marketing Planning
As part of your web strategy, it is really important that you develop an online marketing plan, that covers the following areas:
- Product – what are you selling?
- Place – where will you be selling it? For instance do you already have an offline operation? Will your online activities need to link into your offline activities? How will you deliver your product?
- Promotion – how will you get people to visit your web site?
- Price – what prices will you charge customers?
- Process – what process will visitors follow once they are on your site? How will this trigger your call to action?
- Physical Evidence – what tangible evidence will your visitors receive? For instance after ordering a product will they receive an automated e-mail, will you send an automated e-mail upon dispatch?
- People – what man power will you require to support your online activities? For example will you need people to man your 24 hour online help desk?
- Partnerships – will you need any partnerships to make your online activities a really? If so what types of partners do you need – for instance technology partners to develop the web site, delivery partners to deliver your products.
By covering the e-marketing mix, you can ensure you have taken into consideration the key factors in the operation, delivery and success of your online activities. And with each one of these elements being closely aligned to your objectives, targets and messages you can ensure that your online activities will be consistent in their approach.
Web site design considerations
Once you have a good idea of what you want to do and how you are going to do it, you can turn your attention to your web site design. This is a topic on its own, however there are in principle four areas you should consider:
- Your online branding – so for example what colour do you want your site to be? Do you want your web site to be consistent with your offline brand? If not, how do you want your site to be branded?
- Ease of use – how will users find their way around your web site? Is there a clear process for navigating your web site and can they locate the required information quickly, easily and simply?
- Accessibility – how will you ensure your web site is accessibility compliant? Will you provide visitors with the ability to increase text size and change colours? Will your web site be accessible in alternative formats?
- Search engine optimisation – will the search engines be able to find your web site (i.e. your site is not flash animated or consists of text embedded in images)?
Your web designer should be able to assist you with these considerations, and ensure that your web site is created using the latest coding standards as set by W3C. But don’t be afraid to ask questions to clarify whether your web site will fulfil the above considerations.
Web site Functional Requirements
The functionality of your web site will be determined by the type of web site you want and the processes that you need to provide via your online presence. For web sites consisting of more advanced functionality, you will often need to employ the services of a web site developer, who will be able provide more advanced functionality and features. In terms of functionality, this can cover any number of things, ranging from a site search facility, through to an online registration facility or even an online catalogue that you can update yourself.
In selecting your web site’s functionality, ensure you carefully consider how it will help you fulfil your objectives. Otherwise you may incur an expensive bill, with very little return on investment. If however you do want a web site providing more advanced functionality, consider adopting a phased approach to your web site, and this is something that your web or software development company will be able to help, ensuring minimal rework, based on an understanding of your future needs.
Time, Money and Resources
Creating and maintaining an online presence requires time, money and resources, and you need to take this into consideration from the very start. As well as planning how much time and money the initial implementation will require, you need to consider the ongoing costs associated with a web site. And these can include any number of things, such as:
- General web site maintenance and updates if you don’t have a content management system (CMS)
- Costs of driving traffic to your web site through pay per click campaigns and continual search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts
- Domain names
- Day to day management of the web site such as timely reply to e-mails
With each of these costs soon adding up, it is important for you to ensure your web site delivers a return on investment,
Once your web site is up and running, it is really important you monitor whether it is helping you to achieve your objectives. If its not, then need to look find out why. To do this there are a range of useful tools available, one the most simple things being web site analytics.
The type of analytics package will depend on your web site, however you will normally require a package that will provide you with information about the traffic visiting your web site, the pages visited and visitor loyalty. With this information you will be able to determine the popularity of your web site, as well as understanding the types of information that interests your visitors and assess whether your web site is considered sticky.
Creating a successful online presence is not a quick process, it takes time and planning to ensure it is a success. By developing an online strategy you can ensure that your web site helps you reach your objectives as well as provide your organisation with a return on investment.
If you would like further information about developing an online strategy please visit the Comgem web site – specialists in the web and software development, cardiff, uk.
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