What you will learn: How an agency organizes itself to build a client’s website
Who should read this article: Marketing professionals
Building a Website Is Like Building a House
A lead generation website is a major construction project, very similar to building a house in three important ways:
- Both start with a plan: A strategy document, keyword research and a sitemap form the blueprint of a website project.
- Both have a lot of moving parts: Instead of plumbers, painters and electricians, website projects involve copywriters, designers, developers, SEO specialists and more.
- Both hinge on precise scheduling for success: Some work, like plumbing and painting, can proceed at the same time. Other work, like pouring the foundation, must be completed before framing can begin. A website project is exactly the same.
How an Agency Approaches a Project
Agencies that recognize these three key characteristics of website projects approach projects accordingly; otherwise, the website they build will be as shaky as a house built without a blueprint. The new website will be an accident waiting to happen.
The first phase of a project is discovery. The goal is to obtain all the information and materials necessary to complete the build. Proper discovery covers everything from the broadest strategic input to the smallest technical detail. Items of particular importance include:
- The site’s strategic goals
- The company’s target audiences, value proposition, product/service benefits and related features
- Keyword research to drive SEO and website architecture, and to inform content production
- Client preferences in terms of design, voice and brand messaging
- Collecting and inventorying images
Scheduling and Production
The second phase of the project is scheduling. The agency’s development team cannot simply plow into the work once all of the discovery information has been collected. Chaos would ensue.
A trained production manager oversees the creation of a complex, detailed project schedule – at Straight North, our schedules include several hundred individual tasks, each with a planned start date and duration.
Once the schedule is completed, a trained project manager oversees execution. The project manager role is very important: Without careful monitoring, confusion and delays are almost inevitable. In addition, the project manager coordinates client communication, providing a single point of contact for all issues. Not only does this simplify communication, it also ensures that no detail is missed.
Agencies that have a macro-process but no detailed schedule leave themselves wide open to missing details. This can be devastating: Just as a detail like pouring concrete at the wrong temperature can cause a cracked foundation, a detail like not checking website performance in a particular browser can cause lead generation to plummet.
A well-designed project allows for ample client input along the way. At minimum, clients should sign off on design and a few pages of content early on. Changing design and content early in the website build is far easier and less expensive than at the final stages before launch.
Today, every website should be a responsive website – able to adjust automatically for optimum display on desktops, tablets and smartphones. The responsive process allows clients to view their new website live on the Web while it is in development. For this reason there is no excuse for clients not to be actively engaged in the project.
As the launch date approaches, key project activities include detailed testing and quality control. If you’ve ever been on a website where the forms don’t work, pages don’t load or internal links don’t connect, the reason could be failure to cover these vital testing and quality control bases.
Besides the obvious, testing the website in all popular browsers and making sure all website elements are functioning properly, a complete test and review process includes making sure the hosting service is working properly and the right procedures are in place (what we call a pre-launch checklist) to move the website from test mode to live mode.
The launch phase of a project is more detailed than many clients think. Making sure all pages from the old website redirect to the correct new pages, confirming that all data migrates properly to the new server and many other checkpoints must be covered for the new website to hit the ground running. Taking shortcuts at this point is like letting people move into their new house without checking the electrical wiring.
If an agency abandons the client after launch, it has not done a thorough job. Post-launch activities include testing (because things don’t always go as planned), resolving performance issues, and client training.
Most lead generation sites are built in an open source CMS (content management system). A CMS lets clients easily upload new content, modify existing content, and perform various website maintenance activities on their own. While a CMS platform is simple, a fair amount of training may be needed to handle website upkeep efficiently.
Companies often question the high price tags that come with a new website. If nothing else, we hope this article helps explain why this is the case. Building a website on a shoestring budget seldom results in a high-quality website. Agencies that take on a project at a bare-bones cost skip steps. The result is a new website that resembles a house with leaky pipes, drafty windows, creaky floors and faulty wiring.
Nobody wants to live in a house like that; nobody wants to do business with a website built to that standard.
Let’s discuss your upcoming website project.
Call us at 855-883-0011 or request a quote online.