One fine day, I got a slack notification alerting me to a co-worker’s message. With a good few website launches under my belt, it prompted me to get into action and accept a project that was derailing.
It turned out that the client was feeling stuck with her website project. Our copywriters in charge couldn’t write a single line of copy because the client preferred to get the web pages designed first. The developers couldn’t write a single line of code because they were awaiting approved designs. And the designers couldn’t fully understand the client’s requirements.
I could identify some of the critical building blocks that were missing. Here are seven (plus bonus) key ones to include in your build plan to ensure you have a website that delivers.
Sitemaps: What, when and why
Simply put, a sitemap is a list of all the pages on your website. Generally, you will come across two of its main types.
Once when it’s being used as a visual planning tool to determine the site’s structural hierarchy. At this stage, a sitemap helps everyone understand how big the job is. It also helps you figure out the navigation of your site to ensure it’s easy to browse. A visual sitemap is critical to the success of your project. And getting it right is equally important.
Later, the developer extracts an XML sitemap in the form of a structured list of URLs for search engines. This is a must-do for improving the future ranking of your site.
Page types and templates
Each web page on your site has a specific purpose and will eventually belong to a category called a page type. For example, your home page has a standard page type that needs to be designed and developed. Similarly, there will be other page types including:
- Contact us
- About us
- Sub product
- FAQ page
Based on your sitemap, some page types are called main/parent pages. Others are referred to as child pages. For example, an About us page will be a parent page with subcategory pages like Team or Testimonial pages. And if the News page is a parent page then each blog post will be termed as a child page stemming out of the News page.
These page types can help develop page templates to be used by the person in charge of maintaining the website, later. This approach helps save precious time of your staff and keeps the content on your site in a logical order. Hence, making navigation easier for visitors.
Wireframes: When do you need ‘em?
A wireframe is a blueprint or basic structure of your web page outlining the content. And how the web page is going to function from the visitor’s perspective.
You may not need wireframes for different page types if you’re building a website on a tight budget or your designer prefers working without them. But you will need them for complex requirements to be sure that everyone is on the same page.
My recommendation is to use simple wireframes with less detail for easy builds and more detailed wireframes for complex user interfaces. Depending on the user flow and wherein the design process you are at, I find wireframes helpful.
Another way to use your budget wisely is to develop wireframes for high priority web pages only.
Content … connects and converts
You may have come across the statement, ‘content is king’. And you wonder why.
Because your site will not translate into better service and sales if it’s content fails to resonate with the visitors. Refer to step 1 of my previous post.
Your build plan must have a master list of all content requirements. This will give you a clear idea of how to manage resources and work within a realistic time frame.
Things to include:
- User/buyer personas
- Purpose of each web page and goals to be achieved
- Content topics that fit business goals and address user needs
- Content types e.g. copy (text), images, audio, video
- Content formats and frequency e.g. monthly blogs, bi-monthly e-newsletters, quarterly whitepapers etc.
- Content authors e.g. thought leaders, technical experts, copywriters
- Content manager: Whose going to be responsible for creating and maintaining the content plan and help with content migration (moving the old website content to the new platform)
This brings us to the next building block that goes hand in hand with content migration and goal setting. And that is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
(Not only) SEO: Optimising for the web+ users + conversions
Your build plan must have clear requirements to ensure your site is easily found for target keywords. Common SEO elements to include are:
- keyword-rich (not stuffed) page title and description for search engine results page (SERP) to get seen online and increase site traffic
- image file names with relevant target keywords that accurately describe the image
- image titles to briefly describe the image used on your web page
- alt text (alternative text) for site images, which is text that describes the image and replaces it in case the image is blocked or the user has visibility limitations. This also works well for web crawlers that cannot see the image.
- image description to offer greater detail to the user compared to alt text description
If a new website replaces the old one, appoint a person responsible for managing 301 redirects such that all URLs of pages on the old website are redirected to equivalent pages on the new site. This will reduce customer frustration, and help minimise the dip in page rank that tends to follow a migration.
Protect your developed site with a password to prevent Google from indexing the dev site.
Every site needs web analytics – a reporting dashboard that tracks user behaviour and shows how your content is performing. Installing analytics on your existing website before going live will allow you to compare the performance of both sites. And use your marketing dollars wisely in developing content that visitors find useful.
Know your web hosting options and your requirements. Now, is the time to review your relationship with your current hosting providers. Be it web/domain/email as they are inter-connected. And compare the offering to what’s available on the market.