Taking Inventory

Last week, I introduced a new series of articles on how you should go about buying professional web development services. This week we’re going to discuss the first step in that process which is taking inventory of what you’re trying to do and what you have to do it with.

We’re assuming that you followed the advice in my first series and built your e-commerce site with homegrown parts and prefabricated software. So you’re not starting from scratch. You have at least a basic idea of what’s been working and what hasn’t.

So here we go…

  1. What is the goal of the web site?

    This question sounds trite. It sounds contrived. But it’s true. The first thing to do is to summarize the major goal of your site in a sentence. Example: “The goal of this site is to generate sales of XYZ.”

    The site may have other goals, too, but in that case you need to prioritize them because you may discover later you can’t achieve all of them in one web site. If that is the case, you’ll need to have a way to thin out the list.

  2. What is the customer’s state of mind when he or she lands on your home page?

    Try to get inside your customers’ heads and quantify what their state of mind is when they land on your doorstep. Why would they come to this site, and what would they be looking to do? Once you have a list of these states of mind, try to guess what percentage would be in each state of mind. The idea is to quantify what most people are doing when they come to this site.

    Now compare the states of mind with the goals you came up with in step one. Do they match? Example: The goal of your site is to sell XYZ, but customers are looking to buy ABC. If this is the case, then rethink the goals of your site until they match what your customers want.

  3. What do you have, and what do you want?

    Make a list of the content and features you have on the site already. Then make a list of the content and features you want. Review each item on both those lists and ask yourself, “Does this content or feature move my customer from a particular state of mind to the goal?” Example: Customers come to the site with the state of mind that they want more information about a product. Does this content or feature give customers that information and move them toward the web site goal of selling them the product?

    If the answer is no to any of the content or features, cross them off the list. In the end, you’ll have a good idea of the content and features you have and the one’s you’ll need to build that support your goal.

  4. What are the logical buckets into which your content fits?

    You probably already have your site split into what I’m calling logical buckets of content the places within your site where each piece of content fits. Basically, this is how you’ve organized the information in your site. Your current buckets are represented by your site’s main navigation. This next exercise is a test of that organization.

    Take the lists of content and features you came up with in number three and see if you can place it into its appropriate bucket. If you find you have content that doesn’t fit well into a bucket, you need to either add a new bucket or redefine an old bucket.

OK, so what have we got when we’re through with all this stuff?

  • Well, first we have a goal for the site something we’re moving all customers toward. And we’ve refined that goal based on what the customer’s state of mind is what he or she is looking to do when he or she lands on our site.

  • We know what content and features to emphasize in the design of our site because we’ve quantified the state of mind most of our customers are in when they stop by.
  • We have an inventory of content and features that we already have and that we need to build.
  • We have an organization for those content and features – our logical buckets.

Next week we’ll take this information and start building a document that details the specifications we’ll need to send to the web development firm. We’ll also touch on the back-end technology used to build web sites, so you’ll have some understanding of how a web development firm would go about building your new site.

See you next week.

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