Relaunching a Web Site: The 12-Point Checklist

We know the importance of a game plan before embarking on a new venture. It’s equally important when implementing improvements. Whether a site redesign, revamp, or relaunch, here are the 12 considerations for success.

1. Define Objectives

What do you want to achieve with the Web site and why? Sites typically are one or two of these flavors: e-commerce, lead generation, content, and self-service. What you are will clarify your objectives.

2. Clarify Metrics

Your site’s objectives determine key business indicators and define success metrics. Define benchmarks and set company-wide guidelines for determining this vocabulary. Advertising legend John Wanamaker famously said, “I know half my advertising is wasted. I just don’t know which half.” On the Web everything is measurable. We can pinpoint and optimize what works. That’s a tremendous advantage over traditional media. Take full advantage of it.

3. Evaluate E-Metrics Solutions

You want the best solution to analyze and interpret the data making up the metrics you’ve defined. Be certain to “democratize” metrics access. They should be easy to get, read, and manipulate. Make certain your solution provides enough horsepower for you to dig in deep to analyze a problem and find what you’ll need. At the same time, ensure the information you require on a regular basis is at your fingertips.

4. Know Your Visitors/Customers

What goals do visitors want to achieve on your site? Have they clearly defined their problem? Have they matched your brand to the set of possible alternatives to consider? Do they seek information? What information? Where do your visitors come from? How do their goals influence your business’ objectives? How do you balance these?

Spend time reviewing logs, in focus groups, and with usability studies. See, hear, and listen to what they tell you, and do so without any preconceived notions what visitors and customers are “supposed” to do.

5. Consider the Buying Process

Take the time to understand and plan for visitors who arrive at different stages of their buying process. The language they use and the information they need to take an action can vary greatly by what stage they are at. Also take into consideration the way a 37-year-old mother of three buys a car is different from the way a 19-year-old dude or a 57-year-old Fortune 500 CEO purchases his vehicle. How are you employing this data in your content and design decisions?

6. Speak to Your Visitors Directly

Spend time researching your visitors’ language. Your site must speak in terms that resonate with customers. Those same terms are the ones they type into search engines to find you in the first place.

Search engine marketing is not something to be taken lightly. It provides considerable return on investment (ROI) for so many companies. Research keywords and listen to your customers. Talk to them about what matters most to them.

7. Uncover the Facts

What do you know about what’s worked in the past and what hasn’t? What pages are working well on your site? Which are total bombs? What else have you learned you aren’t making obvious to visitors? What types of campaigns have resulted in high ROI situations? Now’s the time to apply the e-metrics solution from step three to visitor traffic.

8. Define a Platform

I don’t often speak or write about technology (at least, not until it gets in the way of accomplishing business objectives). You’d be amazed how many companies implement solutions only to learn they are completely hostile to search engine spiders, difficult to maintain, nearly impossible to make changes to, or practically impossible to obtain metrics from. If being found by visitors is important, if allowing them to return easily to a page has value, if the ability to consistently and efficiently test and optimize pages and measure results is a priority, then make platform decisions with a clear understanding of how they impact your bottom line.

9. Simplify Content and Change Management

Make certain you have the means to make changes quickly, without having to get too many people involved. Writing copy shouldn’t require a techie — unless that copy is about technology.

10. Delegate Control

Just as you simplify processes for content and change management, get out of your technology team’s way once business priorities are set. Trust that your team can implement. Listen to their advice on how to do so. As in step nine, implementing technology should not require input from the business side, unless you haven’t done a thorough job. That’s a polite way of saying errors at this stage are likely due to your errors in previous stages.

11. Prioritize Priorities

Some business considerations identified early in this process may have higher priority than others. For example, your site may be both selling products and, to a lesser extent, serving to get visitors to sign up for a monthly newsletter. When push comes to shove, you must prioritize which is more important than the other.

Develop a system that guides regular optimization to improve conversion rates. Don’t test too many variables at once. Determine a priori which priorities outweigh others.

12. Work Around Problems

Review these priorities in the context of resources and budget. What resources will your content team need to meet objectives? What does the technology team need to implement? What significant conditions affect design? What direction should the design take? Examine these now, before the work begins. Stave off potential problems by reviewing your priority list and determining if resources and budget are in sync.

These 12 steps are a significant amount of work, but they’re incredibly cost-efficient. When you’re finished, you’ll have a very broad yet focused overview of what you’re trying to achieve and a more realistic understanding of the project. You’ll be prepared to begin a full development process using key persuasion architecture principles to ensure your site relaunch is the success you want it to be.

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