When we embark on a new web project, everything is possible. Well, everything within the schedule and budget! But beyond the nuts and bolts, there are still innumerable possibilities, so where do we start? How do we bring a field of possibilities into fine focus, allowing the most important and most interesting possibilities to emerge?
Ideally, we get together in-person, and whenever possible, we try to setup an initial brainstorming meeting and working sessions, armed with analytic data and customer profiles. However, for many good reasons, that’s not always possible. In fact, more than half of our projects happen without physically meeting, and so we use collaboration systems to assist us.
One staple is the project questionnaire. This is a list of five questions that you can ask yourself and your team before we even start, to help us bring the universe of possibilities down to Earth, without losing creative potential.
What do you think your visitors are looking for?
Perhaps you have analytic data that helps you to see where your visitors are going, or perhaps you know your audience well enough, or have some market research to assist you in determining their interest. This information is helpful, but not always definitive. For instance, perhaps there are things that your visitors are looking for that they are not finding because that information isn’t there. So while you can see what they are interested in, it’s also good to consider what they might be looking for that’s not there.
What are the three most important things the web site should feature?
This is a great question for organizations of any size because it challenges the organization to really look at itself and its mission to make sure it is presenting itself in a clear and concise way. And, just because you feature three things, doesn’t mean that the site won’t have everything else. It’s just a way to make sure you communicate clearly to the audience what you are about, and what they can do on the site.
What’s the most important thing for a user to do on your site?
After you narrow the focus on three things, zoom in on the one thing that is most important. Knowing this, we can design a site that meets your core objectives.
What feeling or impression do you want them to have after visiting the site?
The first and sometimes the last impression someone has of your organization may be because of the web site. Think about that. You definitely want that first impression to be a positive one, but in what way? Thinking in terms of emotions and feeling brings up images, design, quality of experience. Do you want them to feel excited? Do you want them to feel curious to know more? Do you want them to feel like their needs are going to be met? What’s the feeling?
What makes your organization unique that you want to make sure comes through clearly on the web site?
And finally, look at your organization and consider what makes you who you are. How do you express the strengths of your organization through the web site? What are those strengths? This is a way of reaching out to your visitors so they know who you are, and it is potentially the start or continuation of an ongoing relationship.
With these five questions, we’re ready to start work on building a great site that truly reflects your organization and brings forth your most important objectives. And sure, it’s probably a good idea to take a look around, to see what your competitors are doing, to consider features that will make the site interactive and smart, but we tend to do that anyway!
Timothy O’Connor Fraser is a web developer and owner of Dewdrop Media, which partners with Tam Communications to build web sites and mobile apps.