Before hiring a designer and beginning a new website project — before strategy, copywriting, design, development, and execution — there are nine things you must know with absolute clarity.
When my sister began her high school senior year, I had a brilliant idea. I was going to create a scrapbook of her high school years and give it to her for graduation. So I stealthily gathered, printed, and copied photos from the past three years and her senior year, and took new photos of her and her friends to use in the scrapbook. I invested hours creating content, buying supplies, prepping materials and designing the spreads to create the scrapbook.
It was expensive, it was huge, and it took a lot of time. It was a labor of love. I was thrilled to give it to her, and I was sure she would be thrilled to get. When her graduation day arrived, I was so excited to give her that scrapbook.
But when I gave it to her, she wasn’t happy to get it, she didn’t appreciate it, and she didn’t even say thank you. She just tossed it aside and moved on. This was at the height of her angsty teenage years of drama and I think all she wanted was the money everyone else gave her.
I was hurt, frustrated, irritated, and angry. I spent so much time on that project and the person I made it for didn’t even care. My gift was a flop. I felt like I had wasted my money, my effort, and my time. The entire experience taught me a big lesson:
You can’t jump into a project without first doing due diligence to ensure the project is a success.
If I had done due diligence before embarking on my giant scrapbooking project, I would have evaluated my goal, the size of the project, who it was for, and other criteria. I would have realized that even though I thought the gift was awesome, it wasn’t something the recipient valued or cared about.
The same idea is true when dealing with WordPress websites.
There is a lot that goes into building a WordPress website, like mapping out a strategy, establishing the sitemap, creating the wireframes, writing the content, designing the site, developing the WordPress theme, populating it with content, implementing the integrations, configuring the technical details, and launching the completed site.
Website builds require an investment of money, time, energy, and effort — and if you jump right into the project without doing due diligence up front, you risk building a website that:
Before hiring a designer and starting a new website project, there are nine things you must know with absolute clarity:
You need to know why the client is interested in pursuing the website at this time, why it is important to them, and what results they need to get from the site. You need to understand the specific goal of the website and the measurable objectives that must be met to achieve the goal because the client’s goals and objectives will guide the strategy and design of the site.
Some experts will recommend goals such as attaining a specific number of unique website visitors, page views, and social followers, or perhaps objectives like improving search engine rankings. These goals are not website specific but aligned with the marketing that happens once the website is live.
Goals that are specific to the website may be:
You need a firm grasp on exactly how the website is going to be used by the client. By taking time to understand the client’s editorial workflow and how they do things, you can build in tools and features that support their unique approach. Your goal should be to make managing the website and content as easy as possible for the client.
You also need a firm grasp on how the client’s client or customer will be using the website.
Do they need to be able to submit requests, upload content, fill out forms, or register for events? What about sign up for webinars, join a membership, enroll in a course, or buy tickets or products? How they use the site will be a critical factor in the cost of the project, and what solutions and tools you use when creating the site.
A website trying to attract everyone will end up attracting no one because the messaging is too general and fails to make a meaningful connection with the audience.
It is imperative that you know exactly who the WordPress website is for — and I’ll give you a hint: It’s not for your client, but your client’s ideal client or target customer.
Understanding the end user’s persona allows you to tailor every aspect of the website throughout the customer journey for them. This will increase conversions.
You need to invest time in finding out what your client’s customers are actually searching for, because it may not align with what your client is selling.
You need to know what:
When you are conscious of the exact keywords and phrases people are using when searching for the solutions, products, courses, programs, or services your client offers, you can modify the website and blog post content to use those keywords.
This will increase the chances of the website being discovered organically.
You need to know what is being offered on the site.
What the client is offering on their WordPress website will impact the platform and software or plugins you select for the site, as well as how the site is structured and organized. It will also impact the amount of discovery needed and the cost of the site.
The worst thing that can happen on a website is that a visitor leaves without taking any kind of action. Based on the client’s goals and objectives, you need to determine what actions visitors need to take before they leave the website.
First, brainstorm with the client all of the actions someone can take on the website, such as:
In most cases, your client is going to have a list of things they want people to do.
Second, work with your client to prioritize the list of actions.
Understanding what actions are critical to the success of the website and the priority of the actions will guide the overall website strategy, content development, calls to action, and design.
You need to discover what makes your client and their offers unique, how they are different from their competitors, and why they are the best choice. Once you know your client’s current position in the market, you can decide whether the new site needs to:
Armed with an understanding of your client’s competitors, you can also make sure the visual site design stands out and separates your client from the crowd.
Just because a website exists, it doesn’t mean that anyone will actually come to it.
You need to have an idea of how the client plans on marketing the site so people can find it. While this isn’t critical to the design of the website, you do need to learn about the client’s marketing plans to ensure that the website will support their efforts.
If the client has no marketing plan and expects the website to magically grow an email list, generate leads, and make sales, you’re going to need to have an honest conversation to adjust their expectations. If the client does have a marketing plan, or an idea of how they plan on marketing the website, you need to gather as many details as possible so you can identify what role the website itself will play in the marketing plans.
It’s not enough to just know the client’s goals and objectives, you also need to know what a win looks like for the client and how they will tracking and measuring results to determine the success of the website.
Is there a specific staff member responsible for tracking, measuring, and reporting data? What is their workflow? Are there tools to make their job easier?
If I had done my due diligence before diving into my great idea of creating a monster scrapbook for my sister that documented her high school years, I would have saved myself countless hours and a lot of money and effort. She also would have been happier because her gift would have been something she really wanted: cash.
Similarly, when you take the time to do due diligence before beginning a new WordPress project — before mapping out a strategy, establishing the sitemap, creating the wireframes, writing the content, designing the site, developing the WordPress theme, populating it with content, implementing the integrations, configuring the technical details, and launching the completed site — you are putting the best interests of the project first, which serves you and your client.
You will save time, reduce stress, maintain profitability, and remove potential hurdles. You’ll also do better work and create a higher quality end product that delivers more powerful results.
Your client will also save time, enjoy less stress and a smoother experience, and love that you stay in budget. They’ll respect your commitment to their goals and objectives and your desire to ensure they get what they want from their investment.
So, before beginning your WordPress Website project, take a quick step back and find out:
This article was originally written for and published at Liquid Web.