Sometimes I forget that for many the web is a place they do things in, not necessarily a place they understand fully, and that engaging an agency to create a new web site design they often don’t know really where to start. My aim in this short series is to create a starting point for people to work through some very important steps which will make their end project better.
Like driving a car, you don’t need to know much about the engine, just can it do the job you need it to do.
The problem for many in getting a website built is they make decisions in a way many make decisions about cars. How does it look, how comfortable are the seats.
Ever gotten home with your new car only to suddenly realise it didn’t have a tow bar that you would have liked, or other specifications that didn’t suit you? Most times that doesn’t happen. You critique each vehicle, take them for a drive, get them checked over mechanically or compare each of the specs against competitive models.
While many do that in a RFP or other method of evaluating web development partners, in many instances, the work done at this point is quite often not enough, or all wrong.
Typical RFP’s include technical information and evaluation criteria that have absolutely nothing to do with performance of the website for your actual goals. They have nothing to do with the marketing purpose, the integration with the business or what the best methods of getting a better online asset are. They tend to be regurgitated documents that others recommend to make sure technical requirements are met.
So where should you start? What matters most?
In my opinion, no matter whether you already have a development partner in mind or not, what you need to do is ask yourself some very important questions.
As Steven Covey explains in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective people, you need to ‘begin with the end in mind’.
What do you actually want this site to achieve. (this is equally important for application development or any other program for business).
While this seems extremely simple, I can tell you from more than 14 years experience, this is often the part that is glossed over. The reasons that many come to us or any other developer are often things like, “we are tired with the look’, “it isn’t working for us” (general statement not quantified), “we are not happy with our current providers”.
So let’s start thinking about real, tangible results that you want from YOUR website. Not results a friend is getting, or something you read online, or heard on the TV. What matters for you?
Do you want inquiries or leads, sales, better response turnaround times for support questions, improved logistics numbers, less phone calls, more phone calls, a position one on google, less tyre kickers?
The specific answers to this question should frame every part of the new site plan we want to put in place.
When you approach your developer and they ask you what are you looking to do, you should be able to emphatically answer “______________________________”.
Followed by a question.
“Can you help us achieve this result?”
This comes before questions about their technical platforms, what CMS the use, how many staff they have, examples of their previous work etc.
If you don’t know what you want, and don’t know what success in any development you undertake is, then how are your suppliers meant to be able to help you.
I would like to see a 2 page RFP something like this:
We currently get 3 inquiries a week via our online marketing channels. We want a provider that can get us 10 within 6 months. We want you to explain to us how, and hopefully in doing so we will understand your capabilities in doing this. We will then evaluate that against other methods so we can make a decision on how best to get to our goals. Oh and please this is for an online product, please only supply your response electronically.
That’s a focus that any developer or marketing agency should be aiming for. That’s specific. That holds everyone accountable.
So what end do you want your new site to achieve. Hopefully it’s goals are lofty than my example above. Stage one of the planning process is simple, but often it isn’t given enough time. Be realistic.
Set some real targets, some real objectives. You will notice in doing so that, you actually have to ask many more questions.
Questions like how many are we getting now, how are we tracking them, does reception also ask where the inquiry came from? How do we measure such things. What matters most to us.
In reality this is recognising that your web site is an important asset in your business, and you need to give it the same treatment you give all areas of your business. It needs to fit in to your overall strategy.
At this point budget or cost, who or how shouldn’t be questions or issues you consider. Look simply at the result you want then we can get back to the how and how much.
Simple stuff. I know.
But it leads on to the next stages.
In the next edition we will start to examine how you take those goals, dig into them a little more, and start planning out information maps to get a real plan under way.