Everyday we get the opportunity to help businesses build their online presence, whether it be through creating a new website or implementing an online marketing strategy. There is not much we would rather be doing than collaborating with our clients to get them tangible results.
One problem with this has been that most of our internal marketing projects, including the launch of our new website, have been pushed to the side. Until now….
From Concept to Launch
With our company anniversary rapidly approaching (June 24th), it became an internal goal to get our new website launched before then. As new client projects continued to roll in, hitting this target date became more challenging, but we were fortunate enough to work in the time needed to get our project launched.
The project actually started about 9 months after the launch of our very first website. We had already begun thinking about giving our website a fresh new look. About eight months ago we initiated the design process, which included a logo redesign, and kept picking away at the project until we had something we were proud of.
The objective of our new website was simple…
Create a mobile-friendly website that uses content first, and design second, to naturally communicate our point of view
The initial concept or direction was driven primarily by the rapid growth of mobile. Seeing where our industry was going we knew that we had to set the stage for a mobile heavy future. With this in mind, we decided that instead of consuming a ton of resources to build a website and a mobile application or mobile website, that we would just leverage some pretty exciting web development trends, like Responsive Design and WordPress. Our previous website had already been built on WordPress so that transition was simple, but moving to a responsive design took some more thought and planning.
Want to see the progression of our website’s design? View the before and after shots in our project portfolio.
As for the design itself, we wanted to continue “drinking our own champagne” so we knew the new website was going to be pretty content heavy. We are constantly bugging our clients to focus on developing quality content so we found it essential to put our advice into practice. This approach forced our design to be more thought out and content focused. Instead of relying primarily on pretty graphics we decided to let our words do the heavy lifting for us.
With these 2 things in mind, our design and development team got to work knowing that the new website needed to be responsive, for mobile, and content focused, for relevance and conversion.
We’ve been a part of thousands of website launches, but taking our new website to launch was, naturally, much more involved. The experience we had with launching many websites allowed us to work seamlessly during multiple phases (design, development and content population). Our process, which is something we use on client websites as well, looked a little something like this:
- Establish website sitemap (pages and URL structure) and content
- Complete base design layout for all applicable pages
- Build website framework on WordPress
- Populate website with pages, menus, widgets and content
- Implement design and styling while keeping responsiveness in mind
- Integrate content and SEO migration work to maintain search engine positioning
- Make final design / CSS adjustments
- Q’A all pages, content, links and forms
- Implement tracking codes and webmaster verifications
- Launch and breathe
By far, the most difficult step in the entire process was the last one – launching the website.
We could have easily drawn out the project for another 6-12 months trying to perfect every little detail. However, there has been no more appropriate quote, than that which hangs in Facebook’s headquarters…
Over the coming weeks, we will be working to fix things that we assuredly missed and taking feedback to make necessary adjustments. Those essential tasks aside, we are now able to focus on consistently adding useful content and building a website that will continue to help our business grow.
It may even sound a little crazy, but we have already started thinking about the next iteration of our website. With how quickly things change in our industry it is important for us to stay on the cutting edge. Doing so also allows us to test things for ourselves, at our expense, so that the services we deliver to our clients are already tried and tested.
With every project, internal or client focused, we try to take something away that will help us grow, help us to avoid costly mistakes in the future and also provide a benefit to our customers. This project was definitely not short of valuable lessons. Here are some of the ones that jumped out at us that we’d love to share with you…
Use an Agency or Keep it In-House?
There’s no answer here that applies to everyone; however, the best answer could be found in the experience we got from this project. Whenever possible, you should let specialists manage tasks that you are not best suited for. For our website project, we decided to do everything ourselves. If we had to go back and do it again we probably would have tasked some elements of the project to specialists. In doing so, we would have been able to focus on the things we know best. More importantly, we probably would have been able to get our project launched much quicker and at less of a cost (when you factor in the time spent by key people in the company). We’re very proud of the hard work and time we put in, but we will most certainly be using our time more wisely on future internal projects.
Where to Start?
One of the best lessons we learned from this project was that there is a definitely a step that should be done first – developing content. If you want to fast track your project while tying your website’s components together nicely, then follow this advice…
Design and develop your website around your content, not the other way around
This advice may not apply to some aesthetically focused web designs, but for any web project that is being built to gain authority and convert visitors into leads or sales, then having a solid foundation of content is vital to the project’s progress and success. Having the content mapped out first also helps to know what the structure of the website is going to be, which speeds up development and makes navigation flow much better.
When to Launch?
As mentioned above, there was probably no harder step in this process then deciding when to actually launch the website. The thought of taking the website live without knowing that it was 100% perfect was a very hard barrier to get past. However, after talking with some experienced partners and revisiting advice from successful programmers, we pushed past the fear of imperfection and took it live. We are not recommending that you should do something halfheartedly, but rather trust your experience, hard work and team member contributions. Websites and online marketing projects, like many other things, should always be evolving anyways.
One lesson we did not list above, but is worth mentioning, is to not build in a vacuum. In other words, getting feedback and remembering to create something with a target audience in mind is paramount to success. We received a ton of valuable feedback that helped us to remember that this website’s main purpose was to be interesting and informative enough to engage our visitors.
It’s obviously too early to tell if we took the right feedback and acted on it, but you can bet that we will be watching our analytics very closely to be able to make the proper adjustments. With that said, we don’t ever want to shut out any feedback so we welcome and encourage you to provide any input, good or bad, on our new website.
So that everyone can take advantage of your feedback, please provide your input in the COMMENTS below.
If you are interested in learning more about our process or are interested in having our talented team give your business a website makeover, then let us know.