Six Things to Do Before You Build Your New WebsiteBy Emily Miller

A website can be a big project—one that takes marketers, developers, stakeholders, and often an agency to do well.

But, before you start to build, there are a few things you can do that will make the process go much more smoothly.

Plan For Your Website Launch

A great website is the result of smart planning.

Whether this is your first project or you’re a seasoned veteran, you’ll need to begin by building a solid team and setting expectations.

It’s important to set goals, milestones, and responsibilities for each team member early on, so you are well prepared for any unexpected, yet inevitable, surprises.

Before you begin any development work, complete these six steps.

Build a Solid Team

Who is going to stand by your side during this big project?

Before you begin, you’ll need to decide who will be on your team, and get them pumped up for the work ahead. If you need extra resources, now is the time to find them.

If you’re an agency, decide who on your team will be involved with the account.

If you’re a website owner, decide what will be done in-house and what you’ll seek help for externally.

Remember to be realistic in terms of budget and time—if you can’t do it well and efficiently, hire someone.

Determine the Project Roadmap

Now that your team is set and ready to go, schedule a kickoff meeting as soon as possible.

Use this meeting to determine the project roadmap—establish everyone’s roles, project milestones, goals, and an approval process.

Everyone should be on the same page after this meeting.

Set goals that let everyone win

Different team members and stakeholders will have different goals—some care more about aesthetic and usability, others revenue, and others performance.

Make sure each area of importance has set goals that everyone agrees on. Gather existing analytics numbers to create benchmarks for the new site.

Useful data to track can include:

  • Website traffic
  • Conversion rates
  • Search engine rankings
  • Form submissions and leads generated
  • Sales generated from site activity
  • Engagement—time on site and bounce rates
  • User journey—the path taken through the site
  • On-page click analytics

Finalize Messaging

Reach consensus on core messaging and style among every stakeholder before creating any site content.

Identify buyer personas—profiles of each user type, what problems they might have, what they care about, and how you can relate to them.

To go more in-depth, add buying stages to any persona that’s also a potential customer.

Get everyone to agree on core messaging for each persona.

You’ll use this throughout the rest of the project as you make decisions on copy.

Content Audit—Do it!

Unless you’re building a brand new site for a new company or organization, there will likely be plenty of old content to transfer to the new site.

A content audit ensures that nothing valuable falls through the cracks, and nothing of poor quality makes it to the new site.

The audit will take time and patience, but is well worth it.

Use this inventory to brainstorm, repurpose, and create high-quality content for the new site.

A few tips on making the audit a success:

  • Start with what’s live on the old site—inventory links to each asset as well as corresponding landing pages or confirmation pages to reference when building the new site.
  • Tag and organize everything. Taxonomies in CMSs such as Drupal and WordPress are incredibly useful, especially in the backend when developers need to surface categorized content.
  • Marketers can find assets hiding in their marketing automation software. Content used for past campaigns should be included in the audit—sometimes these can serve as low-hanging fruit for quick repurposing.
  • Track down sales content too. Datasheets, presentations, and collateral used throughout the sales cycle can often fall through the cracks and are important for maintaining cohesive messaging.
  • Website owners can sync with their support teams. Documents used for customer service often have more straightforward messaging and can provide clarity around what customers are really interested in

Map Information Architecture

Now that you’re ready to get started on the actual site, you’ll need decide on the correct information architecture (IA).

Once the IA is determined, the new sitemap can be used as a reference point throughout the project.

This step is incredibly important because the placement of navigation items and structure of pages illustrates both the importance of content and the expected user behavior on the site.

Have a strong argument for why the site is organized the way it is, or risk revisiting the fundamentals multiple times throughout the project.

Choose the Right Technology

Don’t stick with a specific technology just because you’ve used it before—the “but we’ve always done it this way” excuse won’t do you any favors down the road.

Research different CMSs, hosting and management providers, etc. and do your due diligence researching the different options before making any decisions.

Find the right CMS

Set your marketing team up for success by choosing the right CMS—they need to be able to quickly publish and make updates to the live site.

Research open source solutions such as WordPress and Drupal to see what will work best for your whole team.

Make workflow and hosting a priority

Ask your developers what they need to be successful—and deliver.

Your devs will thank you for investing in tools that keep them from spending a majority of their time configuring servers.

Encourage best practices that help them code and test, and it will save you time and money in the long run.

Research different providers to be sure your site is prepared for any and all traffic spikes.

Ready, Set, Go!

If you follow these tips before beginning your next website project, you’re well on your way to a successful launch with a happy team.

P.S. There will be no blog posts on Friday. I’m sorry you’ll miss Gin and Topics. I’ll miss putting it together for you. But we’ll be back next week!

Emily Miller

Emily Miller is a content specialist at Pantheon, a website management platform for Drupal and WordPress. She produces content that helps developers, web teams, and agencies build great websites.

View all posts by Emily Miller