Building a website – a customer-led approach

L&Q website home page

The home page of the website I manage, yesterday

How do you go about building a website? Where do you start?

I reckon there are lots of ways that you could go about it and some will deliver better results than others.

I’m in the process of re-building the website that I manage and I’m trying out a classic, considered and customer-led approach to website design this time round.

I’ll be writing about progress with the website re-build on this blog over the next year or so. You can expect to see the new website in summer 2015, all being well.

The big plan

So, the plan for re-building our website goes like this:

  1. First, we get all our customer research and analytics together and understand it
  2. Second, we work up some customer personas and start a content strategy
  3. Then, using all our research and strategy, we produce some draft website designs
  4. We test the designs with customers and improve them (several times).
  5. Then, we start developing the site
  6. Whilst building is in progress, we finish the content strategy, and re-write all our existing website content
  7. When it’s all nearly ready, we do some more testing with customers and make final tweaks.
  8. We launch, quietly.

I’m not claiming to have invented this approach and this is all pretty traditional stuff. But for me, it’s the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to build a website in a well considered way. (Last time I built a site, I had a little over three months to do it in).

Designing for mobile devices and working with audiences that have very different needs

The big challenges in this website build are:

  • The website serves two major audiences that want very different things from the website, and are formed of very different people. This makes home page design, in particular, quite a challenge.
  • The website must work well on mobile devices, since visits to our site from mobile devices have shot up in recent years and are now at around 30% of all visits.
  • A new suite of online customer transactions that are supported by a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) must be integrated with the website, in a way that works well for customers.
  • We must reach consensus with the business on how the website looks and functions, so that the website is fully supported by each department in the organisation.  (If you’ve ever managed a website for a large organisation, you will know that reaching this sort of consensus is no mean feat).

The story so far

We’re now at point five in our big plan.

Working with Webcredible we have just completed the website design and customer research stages of the project.

We think we’ve got a solution which meets all four of our challenges:

  • we’ve produced a responsive website design
  • we’ve settled on some home page designs which work for customers from both our major audiences
  • we’ve tested the key journeys that customers will make from our home page through to our most popular transactions (which, because we are an organisation that builds and manages homes, are about repairs and rent)
  • all interested parties in the business seem to be happy with what we’re doing.

Stay tuned to this blog for further details about some of the earlier stages of the project and updates on our progress.

Today’s tune

I like to set my blog posts to music, so here’s something appropriate from my iPod. In acknowledgement and appreciation of having the time to do things properly, here’s the wonderful Cat Power (with Iggy Pop) on the subject of having nothin’ but time.

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