You’ve probably seen those all-in-one website builder commercials that make website creation look effortless, demonstrating anyone can be a pro in matter of minutes. The reality is anyone CAN do it, but doing it correctly is an art and a science that requires a deep understanding of several disciplines–Search Engine Optimization, Copywriting, User Experience and Development, and Creative and Design.
Before working for an ad agency in Dallas, TX, I created this visual workflow to map nearly every step needed to build a world-class website, illustrating the complexity of the process in an easy to follow guide. It was implemented and tested dozens of times in my tenure there, becoming the gold standard in the office. To this day, I share it with my creative team and present it at the beginning of each client kickoff meeting to clearly define next steps and responsibilities. Although this workflow was initially intended for a digital marketing agency and a client, any business can find it useful.
This post would be too long to cover each and every step, so I am going to briefly explain the importance of what I call the four pillars:
- Search Engine Optimization
- User Experience and Development
- Creative and Design
In a series of future posts, I will expound on these pillars and detail each step.
Before you use this process to begin building a website, I recommend having a business plan, and performing a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). They will be especially useful in the first two pillars below.
1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is an ongoing process that increases the quantity and quality of website traffic through organic search engine results. Start with a carefully constructed SEO strategy. This is the genesis and foundation of your website and can help avoid costly mistakes in other phases of the process.
The strategy should establish your user journey, from visitor to lead, and eventually a customer. I will detail the many phases of the SEO strategy in another post, but in the meantime, you can read how MOZ plans their successful SEO.
Once you’ve defined your strategy you can begin brainstorming keywords to be used throughout the site. With your primary keywords identified and a user journey established you can kick off the next phase. But remember, SEO is never complete. As search engines change algorithms, competition grows, and audiences evolve, your awareness and ability to adjust to these trends can determine your online success.
Creating an outline and planning your copy for the entire site should be much easier with the information you collected in the SEO phase. Keep in mind, you’re writing for your targeted personas. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what they would be searching for and their pain points.
Begin with a broad subject on the homepage, then narrowing into more specific topics on the supporting pages. Much like SEO, the copy should be modified and optimized often. Using A/B testing, find out which headers and supporting paragraphs work best. Blog posts, company news, and landing pages are just a few ways to add to your library of content to keep things relevant and interesting.
3. User Experience and Development
Before any development begins, you will need to choose the website platform that works for you. Over the years I’ve developed using many platforms and I’ve found WordPress to be the best for me. Simply put, WordPress allows 100% customization and search engines love it.
A wireframe is a blueprint for your entire site, so I recommend a comprehensive wireframe layout for each page, especially when working with a client. Getting client approval on a wireframe will save you time and reduce guesswork. It’s much easier to revise a wireframe than make changes to a staging environment down the road.
User Experience or UX is mostly common sense. Keep things simple and easy to navigate. My mom is my litmus. If she doesn’t have to ask, “where do I click?”, then I know I got it right.
4. Creative and Design
Creative and Design is the most difficult pillar in my opinion–because everyone has an opinion. I learned a valuable practice from the Creative Director at my last agency; before sitting down with the client, put together some mood boards in a PowerPoint. Include variations of color palettes, examples of images, fonts, iconography etc. Clients love these mood boards and it makes the next step much easier–the website style guide.
The more comprehensive a website style guide is, the easier and more consistent the website build will be. For example, listing the font’s family, size, color, weight, letter-spacing, word-spacing, and other style options helps the developer understand exactly what the designer envisioned.
Once the desktop version looks and responds the way you intended, the responsive design can begin. Mobile browsing is now more prevalent than desktop, so the responsive UX should be a priority.
QA is not one of my pillars, nevertheless, an essential phase in the process. There are QA companies that specialize in conducting comprehensive audits. They look for performance, load and stress issues on every operating system, browser and device. If hiring a QA expert is not in your website budget, then you may elect an online tool and do-it-yourself approach. Ask family, friends, and coworkers to click around on your site. Feedback from a variety of ages and computer skill levels can help uncover some obvious flaws and provide opportunities to optimize the user journey and experience.
If hope you found this subject interesting and the diagram helpful. If not, you may have already passed out and hit your head on your keyboard, in which case, you’re no longer reading this and should probably put some ice on that head.
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