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Your website - It’s not about the technology or the designer's ego.

If you have clients, then I’d argue that you need a website. For lots of businesses, their website is a direct sales channel and the need is clear. However for professional services businesses with highly tailored, personalised human to human services, the role of the website can be more obscure. It’s easy to focus on the website as simply a brand asset and many website redevelopment projects do just that. Creating a website that is clean, modern and resonates your brand is definitely important, however if that is your only consideration, then are missing an opportunity to create measurable business outcomes.

Does your digital agency understand your business?

When first meeting with a client about redesigning their website, my focus is on understanding their business. I want to understand what they do for their customers, what differentiates them from their competitors and who their customers are. I ask questions about where their new customers come from, how their customer buying journey works and where the website fits into that journey.

In our more recent website redevelopment, we have been working with an engineering services business. After the initial meeting, we were able to understand that large multi-million dollar commercial property owners and developers are their primary clients. The majority of their business comes from word of mouth referrals and their website is used by prospective clients to review their past projects and their individual staff experience to validate decision already made . Armed with this information, we can easily identify the content and pages required in the website. It also allows us to think about the customer journey through the site, how and which pages should we promote from each section of the site. This information forms the basis for a set of measurable objectives for the website. The site analytics will be configured to track these and guide ongoing improvements and development to the site. We recommend a review of site objectives every quarter and laying out a plan for prioritised development in the next three months as a result of our findings.

That critical choice of technology is not so critical

I’ve been a software developer and worked for a CMS software vendor. I can honestly say after 20 years experience in the industry, when you are looking at the selecting from one of the major CMS software platforms. I’m talking about the big ones like Adobe, SiteCore, Drupal Wordpress etc., then functionality and features shouldn’t be a driver. All of these platforms provide the core capability that a modern website will require. If you have really specific requirements in terms of integration, or large numbers of content editors, then there may be a case for a specific CMS, but in most cases, any of the widely used CMS platforms are going to be equally as good.

If you already have an established technology stack within your organisation, then that would be a strong consideration in selecting your new CMS. For example if you have a team full of .NET developers and you pick a PHP based CMS then you might not be the most popular person.

OK, pretty is important

So every Creative Director I have ever worked with is probably rolling their eyes at me right now, but despite how I may have previously taunted them, the creative element of the website is important. How a website looks, how it makes your potential customers feel about your company, and the quality of your services and products, is an important part of the buying journey.

It’s sometimes difficult to look at a Designers portfolio and judge the work because you need to remember that the design has been driven by the specific needs and taste of a particular client. What I like to see when I am evaluating a Designer or an Agency, I ask them to walk me through the journey that a particular design took. What was the brief from the client, I like to see initial concepts and elements, how these evolved, how the homepage started to come together, how the elements were utilised across the other templates, how the design moved into the browser, and the animations and movements that lifted the static design and of course the completed site. It’s the journey that leads to a great design. Any agency that wants to take a brief, slap in some lorem ipsum and roll out a couple of homepages for you to pick from just doesn’t get it.

Remember it’s all about your business

Regardless of your business type, your website plays an important role in your customers buying journey. When redeveloping your website, remember to start with a clear understanding of the its role in the journey. Use this understanding as the foundation to drive all your decisions from lead generation, to content writing, to page layout and to design, through it all. Make sure that who you work with, doesn’t just understand your business make sure they care about your business.

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