A website’s success is all about design, right?
Design, content and visual organization are just eye candy if the purpose of a website is not clearly defined, according to Marcus Thomas Senior Vice President and Digital Strategist, King Hill.
“Design is about more than an aesthetic or cool factor,” says Hill. "It's about anticipating movements and guiding a user along a predetermined, purposeful path. Without purpose, it's impossible to evaluate a website’s effectiveness. And if you can't evaluate the effectiveness, you're not a marketer."
Hill has advised clients ranging from the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns to Visa and Stouffer's and FirstEnergy since 1995. He states that getting to a defined purpose is the first, and most critical part of a detailed process.
“At Marcus Thomas we take clients through a five-step planning process: Discovery, Definition, Solution Development and Testing, Design and Content Development, and then on to Deploy and Launch.” Each step informs the next and helps clients project the impact the site can make on their business.
Discovery is all about identifying opportunities to make a difference that exists in the value exchange between brand and customer, and the environment that surrounds and influences them.
The Definition stage is where you find your purpose and develop a hypothesis around what has to happen for this site to be successful. Do you need to capture visits and convert them to leads? Do you need to express a brand and raise perception of some key attributes? If you do these things, what is the specific monetary impact you can expect? And what’s your strategy to do this and how will we measure it.
In Solution Development, you explore ways to build and design the site to meet its purpose(s) within specific financial parameters. These parameters are essential because they frame your decision making and set priorities for your content, technology and maintenance.
Solution Development is also where you create and test use cases for user experience of key site functions, and develop key performance indicators to enable site evaluation.
With the plan in place and functions tested, then, and only then, you move to the Design, Content and Development Phase. Here you build pages, functions, content and other elements of the final design.
Finally, you deploy all of these elements onto your content management system, test it and launch it to the public.
“Success comes if the site delivers on its purpose,” Hill says. “If it doesn’t, all the awards in the world can’t make up for it.”