How we build great websites


Building great websites does not happen overnight or after a single meeting…that doesn’t mean we don’t try to make it seem that way. Successful projects happen because we align purpose, audience, content, and narrative with the resources available. These items should be discovered early and refined through the entire project. They do not have to be completed in order though I find it helpful to move down the list and then start back at the top.

Purpose

What are you hoping to accomplish by building this website? Many clients want to increase their web presence. That is a start but to what end? A good purpose should tie into an organizational objective/goal. Some examples are:

We want to increase awareness about our development work in South Sudan. We need to bring in new donors because we want to increase funding for this program by 100% by the end of the year.

We are launching a new product line that will differentiate us from our competitors. A website will be necessary to educate our customers about the new product and the fact that we are selling it.

These statements both give purpose to a website or digital strategy. They can help shape the important aspects of a project like: timeline, budget, content, and visual style.

Audience

Who is this project for? What do those individuals or groups need? The answer to audience may start out very broad in scope; “This website will be for customers of our new product”. To be useful though, we have to get more specific. Here are a few examples:

This website should inform/educate three groups: researchers, members of the press, and procurement officers. Each group has different needs. Researchers need to know the specs of the product. Members of the press will want to know how it differs from other products on the market. Finally, procurement officers will  be interested in the price, lead times, and delivery methods.

We want to explain what we are doing in country to donors, NGOs, and federal agencies. Donors will want to know about the progress we have made. Other NGOs will be interested in our best practices. Federal agencies will be interested in how they can assist us with our mission.

These examples show that the client understands what each target audience should get from a visit to the site. This becomes very important for the next question.

Content/Process

Great websites are either content driven or process driven. These are broad categories but require different strategies and technologies while being built. The driving force is often determined by the purpose and audience.

Examples of content driven websites are:

Anandtech – They are a technology review website (one of my favorites).

Agora Partnerships – A non-profit I work with that educates investors, non-profits, and entrepreneurs.

You may notice while looking at those websites, they are built around the idea of consuming information. There are also sites that thrive on user generated content like: Facebook, Imgur, and Instagram. The content is the super star and the sites are design to help you get to it as quickly as possible.

Process driven websites are those sites that have tools visitors can use to accomplish something. They do not exist solely for the purpose of consuming information. Examples of process driven websites are:

Pingdom – A site that monitors websites and helps web developers find issues.

Toodledo – A to do list site.

E-commerce sites generally fall into process driven though they often feature content. Sites like Amazon should be considered process driven because the focus is on purchasing goods. The only reason it could be confused with a content driven site is because they offer reviews, but we would argue they do that to improve the process of buying goods.

Story

Story refers to the narrative or flow through the site. On content driven sites it is the literal story told by blog posts, articles, and informative pieces. On a process driven site, it is how users will interact and move through the website. The story should fulfill the purpose, be ideal for the audience, and fit the content or process. This will create a great website if you pick the right developers to execute on these answers.

If you are interested in working with us to experience these steps firsthand, contact us.