Web strategies are one of those misunderstood beasts of the web business world. Something you should consider if you are serious about your web site. Yes, I can hear you going, “why do I need this waste of time, worthless document”. That’s what I used to think too. However I believe you will see things differently, web site strategies are about saving money.
A web strategy is great at narrowing down and focusing a project on its real purpose.
This makes a project more effective. It can limit the scope of work, ensure you are only developing what you need, while giving an overall direction for the design of the site. This in turn allows your developers to focus on the features you want and you designers to design them.
This may seem like common sense, and mostly it is, but if you don’t give people a direction in which to focus on they will spend a lot of time second guessing what is required, this in turn wastes your time and importantly your budget!
A really good web strategy will slot into your overall business strategy. Again I’m not talking volumes of documentation here, like a simple business strategy a few pages maybe all you need.
You can use a web strategy to:
- Determine how to inform customers about your products and services.
- Identify segments of your audience that require special treatment.
- Determine how to write the content of your website. For example what will work what will not, what information are people interesting in besides the product and services details.
- Determine the key features that will really help with your business and your customers want.
- Determine the ground rules for your web site and how you plan to use it.
- What are the decision making points for your audience in using your products or services.
Building a Web Strategy
First off you have to work out the objective of the web site. This objective needs to be in plain simple English. It has to communicate the core of the site goal, nothing else. Cut out all the techno babble or biz speak. It’s a board sweeping statement, simple.
Next we have a look at the strategy. The web strategy will determine how you are going to achieve the web site objective.
Basically the strategy looks at the usually three W’s – who, what, and why.
You have to examine who you are talking to in fine detail, no board audience strokes here unless you have a huge budget.
What you want your audience to do, and how you want them to engage with you in the short and longer term. What are the road blocks that your audience usually encounters that stop them referring to your web site and using your services.
Then there is the why, why do you want your audience to read your website, why use your services over your competitor.
Once you have this base strategy, of a paragraph or so, you can expand on it and flesh out how you are going to achieve these points, from the board detail down to final functionality.
In doing this you need to find the points of action, the decision tipping points for your audience. These are the places on the website that are critical areas. At these points you need to remove any issues that your audience may have to proceeding with the outcome you want (the site objective).
How far you go on this document from this point is dependent on your budget.
What Do I Do With It?
A web strategy is the kind of document you can always refer to when you have some new wild idea or new content.
Examine does this idea work from my audience, does it fit in the site content structure, does it follow the website objective and the strategy.
It’s at this point if the new idea fails any of these tests you have to question if it is a really good idea. Beware there is a reaction to say, “well the strategy is wrong or the site structure is wrong”. Stop! Think for a minute maybe the new idea is just not suited for the site.
If it serves for nothing else a web strategy reminds you why your web site exists. It helps you keep your site aligned to the core of your business. It may even stop you wasting your money on a new feature that is really not in your business interests.