Project scoping, designing, building, launching and optimising a new website is a complex multi-stage process. Each step needs careful consideration, expert advice can often help provide clarity on the way forward to success.
Prior to commissioning or building a new website you should always conduct a website review of your existing site and develop a full scope. The website review will identify your existing content, top tasks and enable you to refine your Information Architecture (IA), user journeys and design.
Additionally you will need to consider:
The build phase of the website will bring all your functional ideas together. Good Content Management systems will have features to ensure your content is W3C compliant for accessibility, plus have automated metadata tagging and link checking.
You will also need to ensure your hosting provider is delivering you a robust solution and will cope with any additional traffic demand.
Analytics tracking code should be added to the site to measure standard usages as well as custom code for tracking actions, goals and funnels. It is critical to monitor this information regularly and act on what it is telling you.
Your mobile website will need to be built and tested. The solution that gives you the best combination of easy content management, value for money and ability to engage is to deploy a sub-site version of your website. Here the content can be shared with your main site or tailored for mobile consumption, but only top tasks are included to give a slicker more engaging experience to customers.
Launch and promotion
Once you have completed your testing in a development environment, you will be ready to launch and promote your website as the optimum channel for customers to use your services. Channel shift from phone and face-to-face contact to online delivery can save 80% of service costs, so it is important to push the web channel as the main contact method.
Promotion is typically carried out by the marketing or communication team and would include campaigns for:
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
- Social Media
- Pay Per Click (PPC)
- Offline material
Testing for usability and optimisation
Once your website has been live for a while and any snags have been fixed, you can start the on going processes of refining user journeys and website optimisation.
These will enable you to squeeze the last bit out of your website and convert as many customers as possible and create a better user experience.
Usability testing is done in two ways; quantitatively and qualitatively.
A combination of multi-variate testing and analytics insight will give you the understanding needed to make significant and meaningful improvements to your user journeys. Multi-variate testing is used to refine page layout. This is a process where by users are dynamically presented with different versions of a page and the resultant behaviours are subjected to statistical analysis to determine which is the best version of the page to adopt. This is not a one-off process, but a continually evolving and iterative one where alternative variants are tested regularly.
Observing real users is also a valid way to gain feedback on your website. It is best to measure live behaviour remotely rather than group or individual interviews/focus groups. Using remote testers means that they will be able to test in their natural environment with a PC that they are comfortable with. It also avoids anyone "looking over their shoulder", which can be off putting and lead to testers doing/saying what they think the tester wants to see/hear. You can then combine your quantitative and qualitative research and base decisions on facts and data.
If you have conducted a thorough website review prior to building a new website, your launch and promotion should be successful. But once live, your website will really need to be sweated. In-depth usability testing and analytical research will enable you to increase conversions and ultimately sell more or deliver more services.
Posted by Rob McCarthy 10th January 2012
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