Creating a website: The 10 crucial questions

March 5th, 2009 by LaunchPad Media

When you create or revamp a website, there are 10 questions you need to answer.

PURPOSE – What do you want this site to accomplish? Do you need it to generate leads for sales, provide product information, sell ads for revenue, or sell products directly? Do you need to build a database of consumers and then communicate regularly with them to strengthen their loyalty?

AUDIENCE – Who will be visiting your website and why? Who are your current customers and who are you targeting as prospective customers? Are there secondary audiences – for example, business media or prospective investors? Are your own employees an important audience in needing information or a morale boost?

REPUTATION – In the offline world, how is your organization perceived? What messages do you convey through your sales force and PR efforts that should be reflected in your website? What is your image now, and what do you want it to be? How does your organization differentiate itself from the competition?

COMPARABLES – What are your competitor websites? What do you like and dislike about them? What sites do you like in other industries, and why, specifically?

TIME – What is your project time-frame? Are you in a rush? The more pages you need, the more time will be required to conceive, write, design and program them, of course. For example, it’s easy enough to create a 4-page site in a month, but a site with dozens of pages could take several months.

BUDGET – What are your financial constraints? Time is money, and it takes time to design, or animate, or program a site. So, as with any project, you need to be realistic about what you can afford before deciding on options and add-ons. The sky is not the limit in imagining a site; money often is.

TEXT – What are the thoughts and words you want to bring to life online? Sometimes it’s not as simple as just cutting and pasting text from marketing, PR and advertising materials. Writing for the web deserves its own voice as people search and read on the web differently. Unlike print, the words might be in motion. Unlike TV, people can read and absorb ideas at their own pace.

LOOK & FEEL – What do you want the first, second and last impression to be – visually and emotionally? What feelings do you want to stir – curiosity, hunger, reassurance? What imagery would capture people’s attention and convince them that your message is genuine? Do you want your site to be elegant or edgy, comforting or challenging…?

ARCHITECTURE – What are the essential categories/pages for your site? Will you have features like: event calendar, search, polls, photo gallery, flash/animation, blog, FAQs, executive biographies, e-commerce, e-newsletter, sweepstakes, detailed tracking of statistics, news, forms…? Which parts of your site will require regular updating? Will you have special technical requirements, such as needing to comply with corporate or governmental guidelines?

OPTIMIZATION – What do you want to accomplish with Internet marketing and Search Engine Optimization? What are the keywords people might use in search engines to look for sites like yours? Will you trade links with other organizations? What are your plans to promote and publicize the site once it launches?

Asking the right questions can inspire the right imagery, text, features and functionality. So, be patient and thorough in considering and answering them. You’ll be glad you did.

Alex Poulos is the president and co-founder of LaunchPad media, an award-winning creative agency in Watertown, Massachusetts.