The Importance of a Strategy-First Website Project
Despite an aesthetically pleasing design or streamlined development process, whether or not your website delivers strategic marketing results rests heavily on initial strategy, discovery and definition.
Discovery and definition are the preparatory phases of your project, and they should be the backbone for every decision you make along the way – they are really the foundations of a successful website project. With this work, good design is nothing more than simply ‘good design’. Your new website might look great subjectively, but there’s no guarantee it will deliver against marketing KPIs.
The first decision you need to make in embarking on a new website project is whether it is going to be strategic or non-strategic.
- A non-strategic project is one that doesn’t have any marketing objectives associated with it.
- A strategic project is one that is aligned with your marketing strategy to achieve measurable results.
As a marketer, this decision should be obvious!
In 2020 when the digital marketplace is saturated with content and competition, standing out and connecting with customers is more difficult and more important than ever before. Having a strategic website that really works to support marketing and sales can position you at the helm of your industry and drive your business forward.
How exactly will a strategic website drive my business forward?
Working with an agency on a strategic website project often means you will use research to better understand your user, industry, and competitors, creating a strategy enabling your website to reach your strategic business objectives.
This is the key aim of the discovery and definition phase: to align the website project with business objectives. This will also ensure everyone (agency and client stakeholders) be aware of what success should look like through metrics.
The discovery and definition phases draw attention to the user, by taking into account the user’s wants and needs. This can be done by researching into user personas and user journey flows. Other considerations during this phase of work might be analytics audits, competitor analysis, SEO research, UX wireframing, customer journey mapping and so on.
All of these things can set up a new website project to achieve marketing results such as increasing:
This work can ensure from the beginning that your website is set for success!
I want a strategic website! Where do we start?
As an agency, 93digital initiates the discovery and definition phase with a ‘kickoff session’. These sessions are done to get a shared understanding of the project objectives to outline what the client wants to achieve and how this will be measured.
Kickoff sessions also include a discussion about the target audience – who do you want us to help you reach? Which is the priority group? What are their characteristics? What do they want to receive from your website?
It is very important to take content requirements – a content audit, content migration, keywords and SEO.
In this session, we will introduce main stakeholders, outline approval processes and potential risks, structure a timeline and clarify budget. Sorting out these logistical points early means that management of the project will run smoothly.
We aim to establish a strong agency-client relationship that is built on collaboration and mutual trust. Clear communication is key to commencing an efficient website project.
The kickoff session sounds great. What’s next?
Once the objectives of the project have been established, we can start looking into persona and user flows, competitors, sitemaps, content maps, UX wireframes and SEO requirements.
In looking at personas, we create portraits of target users, to outline their goals, motivations and barriers in using your website. This will help us to find routes they might take throughout your website to ensure the best possible user experience is provided. The user routes are segmented into different stages of the buyer journey: awareness, consideration and purchase.
Competitor analysis is an effective way to gain inspiration from other websites within your industry. From here you can distinguish what you like or dislike about them to identify areas for improvement and ways you can stand out.
Sitemaps & IA are a presentation of the navigational structure of your website. We construct these in the discovery phase of the project in order to make adjustments as soon as structural issues are realised.
Content maps provide a plan for your content strategy to make sure your content is up to date, detailed and provides enough information and value to your audience. Certain elements need to be considered such as migrating content, hiring a copywriter, and maintaining the content once published.
UX wireframes are the visual blueprints for the website that show what the content blocks and features will look like on the pages. They are designed with key users in mind to show layout and content structures before we get to the aesthetic design stage.
SEO research will help with how well your new website ranks against others on search engines. SEO affects content structure, sitemap, layout and keywords used on the website, and really needs to be considered from the start.
Discovery and definition do seem vital to the website project. But won’t this take a lot more time?
Although discovery and definition research adds more time to the project and therefore extra cost, for a long term strategy these early investments will make up for themselves.
Here is an example of a strategy, discovery and definition phase that 93digital did for a recent website redesign project:
This stage of the project took approximately 6 weeks to complete prior to the design and development stages.
This preparatory work made sure we delivered a website that not only looks great, but is user-centric, aligned with the user journey, optimised for search, and ensures a high rate of lead conversion.
So did the strategy, discovery and definition pay off?
Overnight and within days of the launch, our strategy, discovery and definition research resulted in:
- 2209% increase in Google ranking positions
- 197% increase in new target keywords being ranked for
- 310% increase in lead generation conversion
The ROI from this project means it will pay for itself within months of launch.
These are the achievements of a strategic website project that strives toward achieving marketing goals. If this client hadn’t had invested in strategy, discovery and definition at the start, their new website definitely would not have had this much of an impact.
93digital is passionate about empowering marketers through innovative projects that generate ROI. Let us know how we can help you achieve your business goals through a strategic website project.