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Building a new website, as exciting as it is, can be a daunting task. There’s an awful lot to prepare, and you want to get it right the first time. Assuming you’ve already decided who you’re going to work with, what you want it to look like (generally, at least!), and how you want your new site to perform, it’s time to start preparing for the build process.

The first step in any site build is a meeting to get everyone on the same page as far as goals, aesthetics, and functionality are concerned. The more you prepare for that meeting, the more smoothly it’ll go – and we’ve found that more often than not, it’s the same few things that require careful consideration.

Below are six most important questions we think you should ask yourself before setting out to build your new website.

  1. Who is your audience?

    If you run a business, you probably know the answer to this question, but it never hurts to think a little more critically. Or, at very least, you should! If you haven’t conducted some market research into your target audience, now is probably the time to revisit that rather essential side of marketing. Understanding your audience, and building typical customer profiles, will help you better adapt your messaging to the people you want on your site.

    It’s also critical that you design a website that your users want to see – not the one you like the best. It’s a common pitfall for business owners to do things the other way around, and they pay for it down the road. The more you can get inside the heads of your users, and create an experience that will resonate with them, the better your chances of winning them over as customers.

  2. What is your core business?

    Some organizations, before being forced to sit down and turn their brand into a website, can have a difficult time articulating exactly what their mission is – and how to concisely describe their core service or services. Having a firm grasp on this is essential before setting out on a new web design project. You’ll need to know how to talk about your business from a top-level perspective (home page, taglines, etc.) and also at a more granular level (individual services, policies, etc.).

  3. Do you have brand guidelines in place?

    As we’ve discussed before, this is a very common oversight, especially with smaller brands. Figuring out the look, feel, and general aesthetic of your brand – as translated in colors, fonts, and text size – will go a long way in making your new website look professional, and it’ll save your design firm from having to do that work for you (not to mention bill you for it!). Successful brands, be it on the web or in print, are the ones who are able to immediately bring to mind a particular feeling associated with their products or services. Maintaining consistent guidelines for the look and feel of your brand on your website is a critical first step in establishing that kind of memorable presence.

    What keywords are people using to find your services? As an analytics and SEO-based business, we always recommend that design projects start with a thorough understanding of acquisition and user behavior. A major part of that, as far as design is concerned, is organic search engine traffic. While Google Analytics may not display keyword data for visitors from organic search anymore, you can still see that data in AdWords, as long as you’ve linked AdWords and GA – which we highly recommend! If you haven’t, you can still take a look at the Keyword Planner to get an idea of search volume for terms you think represent your core business and services, and use those to inform your on-page keyword strategy.

  4. How are you measuring performance now?

    We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: digital marketing without measurement is a waste of time! You must have a measurement model in place to determine how your marketing efforts are directly helping you achieve your business goals. Assess how you’re currently measuring progress, and what that measurement tells you about where you need to go. Which brings us to #6:

  5. What website conversions are most important to your business?

    All the above aside, depending on the agency you’re working with, establishing that measurement model in the first place might well be part of the site build process. In that case, the most helpful thing to do before meeting with your web team is to start with your major business goals, and then determine which website actions, generally speaking, count as progress towards those goals. So if you want to increase sales by 20% year over year, figure out how many feedback form responses, transactions through the website, and other conversion-type actions you’ll need to meet that goal.

Here are some examples of common, goal-centered website conversions:

  • Phone calls from the site
  • Newsletter signups
  • Email form responses
  • Completed transactions

Conclusion

In our view, it’s always best to plan ahead and ensure you take care of everything you can before sitting down with an agency. That means your time is used most effectively, and you can use your meetings to focus on priorities that require help from the outside.

Have you worked with a design agency before? What questions did you ask – or wish you’d asked – yourself and your team before working with them?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

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