Should You Build a Website in Phases?
You already know your website is important. You also know your site is more than a digital brochure. It’s your online identity and the hub of all your sales and marketing activities. Your customers use it to get to know you by engaging with your content. They may even use your website to purchase your products.
That’s why your website should be more than good. It needs to be great. And above all, it needs to deliver an excellent user experience.
This is why developing (or re-doing) your website is not a quick or simple project. There’s a lot at stake, and that means there is a lot to consider before starting the design process.
Where do You Begin?
Recognizing what a successful website means to our science-based clients, we always approach a website development project in phases. By working in phases, it’s easier for your sales and marketing teams to think through their needs and for your web partner to design a user-friendly site. So yes, you should build a website in phases.
The first phase of any web project is all about discovering who you are and defining what the website navigation should look like. In fact, until we understand what your goals are for your website, it’s impossible to quote the second phase! Phase 2 always depends on what we learn during phase 1.
A typical website project has two phases. Sometimes, though, depending on the scope of what needs to happen and budgets, a website development project can have up to three phases.
What is Phase 1 of Website Development?
Phase 1 is strategically important. It forms the basis upon which your website will be developed. This phase ensures that all key stakeholders are on the same page with goals, strategy, site organization, and design. It also gives your website design team time to figure out what’s going on in your current site and to identify the strategy and content you need to meet your goals. Phase 1 delivers a plan to execute your website.
Phase 1 typically includes a full creative brief session, assigning stakeholders, creating your digital strategy, developing wireframes, agreeing on navigation and sub-navigation, and finalizing the decision regarding the best platform for your website.
But, success can’t happen without the foundational discovery process – an exploratory brainstorming session with your key stakeholders and our team. We’ve also found the most success is with a process centered around our creative brief, which allows us to gather critical information while building a partnership with your team.
If you’re wondering what this achieves, just wait for it…
From one session, we’re able to identify your value proposition from your customer’s point of view – by audience and segment – perform a SWOT analysis, deeply understand your differentiators, capabilities, and product and service road map, and identify what content is needed.
My guess is that in reviewing this list, you automatically see the value in this exercise. How much more successful will your website be if all of this information is taken into account from the beginning?
Digital Strategy Development
Based on the information gathered and synthesized from the discovery process, it’s time to build a digital strategy. What does a digital strategy mean in the website development process?
Creating a website digital strategy is all about reviewing the website’s goals, target audiences, and channels to document the key questions that need to be resolved. With that list, we’re able to identify changes that may be needed. We also provide expert guidance and recommendations on how best to achieve your website’s goals.
Since nothing is without risk, it is at this stage of phase 1 that we pinpoint risks that must be resolved or mitigated to ensure success.
Digging Into Site Infrastructure
When was the last time your website was updated? If you’re like most companies, you want to pretend you didn’t hear me ask that question, right?
Chances are it’s been years. That’s why it’s so important to have a neutral third-party review your current website and infrastructure. It avoids any finger-pointing at team members and provides a clear picture of where things stand.
You may not know which programming platform your website uses. And where it’s hosted may also have become a mystery.
As part of phase 1, we take a deep dive into your website infrastructure. What this means is you’ll be providing us with admin-level access to your site and we’ll be testing your site as a super user.
We’ll search to see if it’s been well-programmed on your platform – whether it’s Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, or a proprietary platform. We’ll identify broken links and whether your site has been updated appropriately.
If you haven’t implemented security patches sent out by your programming platform on a regular basis, the security of your website may be compromised. You do NOT want your website security to be out-of-date and vulnerable to hackers.
As part of the website infrastructure review, we analyze whether your current website technologies will support your business efforts both today and for your future goals. You need to ask and answer – will your current website tech help or hinder your digital strategy?
How are Users Interacting with Your Current Website?
Have you reviewed your website’s analytics lately? Understanding your analytics gives you insight into how your customers and prospects are using your site now. When we look at your analytics and set-up heat map tracking, we can gather information about what users are visiting and where they’re focusing. This tells us what matters most to them.
Content Organization and Design
Once you know what your needs are and how customers use and engage with your current website, it’s time to start talking about design, navigation, and content needs. During phase 1 of development, we also look at your website from a creative and content point-of-view.
One goal of phase 1 is to get your new website navigation identified and approved. Once we have finalized your navigation and sub-navigation, we can move into creating mockups or wireframes of what the site will look like.
We think you need to love your website, so one of the things we ask you for is some links to websites you both like and don’t like. Sometimes, what you need actually works really well with the sites you like and sometimes the web designer will need to adapt the design for your needs.
Building the wireframe allows us all to identify where the site’s content will come from and link to. You may, in fact, already have some of the content you need on your site.
What it all Means and What to do Next
Phase 1 of your website development ends in a report summarizing what we learned and what we’ve decided together is best for your future goals. We always include recommendations and structure for the actual development of the website, as well as the scope of phase 2.
Bottom line: building a website in phases gives companies a clear understanding not only of their infrastructure and physical web design needs, but also what matters most to their customers.
Are you ready to redo your website? Let’s talk. Give us a call at 215.997.8575.
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, energy and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.