Time takes a toll on things—except for maybe a fine wine or Scotch. That includes websites, for reasons ranging from an outdated look to technical obsolescence. If your platform is old, it may no longer be supported with updates or tech support. Expect trouble ahead.
This year we’ve taken on two major updates of websites that were built 4-5 years ago, plus we proposed that an old, mostly dysfunctional third site be rebuilt. Here are some thoughts about how to bring your marketing website “up to snuff” for the second decade of the 21st century, including making it smart phone friendly.
As Randy’s father often said, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” Here are some suggestions for how to do that.
1. First, ask yourself basic marketing questions… again
If you’re going to remake your website, it makes sense to revisit some basic marketing questions in the process. Here are 11 Critical Questions that we like to start any new marketing project with. Perhaps it’s been a while since you asked yourself these. Maybe the answers have changed over time too, including who your target customer is and what your Brand has evolved into. And this is probably an excellent time to consider other pieces of your “digital footprint” online, including social media and a wide variety of business listing sites.
2. View your website as part of an overall marketing strategy
Several years ago we put together a simple Marketing Toolkit diagram that shows a wide variety of marketing tactics potentially available to businesses and nonprofits. It still holds up pretty well. How does your new website compliment and synch with other tactics you’re using? How does it convey and build excitement around your Brand?
3. Review your competition online
What is the rest of the world doing online these days, especially your competition? Bookmark the best examples. What are they doing well and not so well? Maybe borrow some ideas from them. Are there new features and functionality that you should be using? Are there some income generating opportunities that you’re missing?
NOTE: For steps 4 and 5, it may be worth getting an expert to guide you, since it could make the difference between success and failure… the difference between ‘bang for your buck’ or not.
4. Define the kind of site you want for the future
This is your opportunity to reImagine any part or all of your current website and how it talks to customers. It’s the first critical step in strategic planning for the site. What features and functions do you want? How can you make it easy for customers to find what they want? Do you want to be able to manage or update your site without the weekly help of a developer?
We often get requests for website quotes from the online referral site Thumbtack. It’s astonishing how little information people provide beyond needing “a basic website,” as if a website is something you buy on the generic shelf of the supermarket like canned corn. Not for yours.
(NOTE: creating a preliminary diagram of “architecture” and features of the new site could be a valuable tool for defining the future site. Here’s an example:)
5. Create a website RFP that defines what you want
Your Request For a Proposal (RFP) document will accomplish two important things. First, it helps you get clear about what you want before you get into the actual building of the site, where changes can be rather expensive. Second, and very important, the clearer and more detailed your RFP, the better you will be able to get accurate pricing and compare those prices as “apples and apples.”
(TIP: make sure it is a “responsive” website, meaning that it will adapt automatically to all mobile devices, including smart phones, since they are the wave of the future.)
6. Get recommendations for pro website developers
This process is about TRUST and the success of your business. Perhaps you already have someone you trust implicitly. Great! Even so, we often recommend identifying qualified AND reliable developers who have created sites similar to yours. While it may be tempting to use a brother-in-law to create your site, is he really qualified to deliver the professional site that your business deserves and represents your Brand? Maybe so; great. And be aware that some developers have been known to “disappear,” leaving you high and dry.
7. Put your project out to bid… and then choose.
Unless you have total TRUST in the performance and fairness of a developer, it’s a good idea to get proposals from 2-3 qualified entities. These proposals should not only include itemized budget, but also a timeline, relevant samples of work, costs for changes, references and any training costs. Then make your choice, perhaps by including interviews and presentations in the process. It’s about trust, which includes recommendations, track record, experience, your intuition… and pricing. The lowest bidder does is not necessarily your best investment in the future of your business; likewise with the highest bidder.
8. Be aware that the process can be challenging!
Along the way there will be a lot of questions to answer and decisions to be made, similar to building a new house or remodeling one. It WILL require your time and attention. And during the process you may get frustrated or confused. One web developer said: “In the beginning you’ll love us… then you’ll just like us… then you may hate us… and then you’ll probably at least like us again!”