How to Build a Launch Pad Website on Time and Budget
Ashley is a content writer and brand developer. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from the bizarre world of on-camera acting to the practice courts of NBA basketball players to the virtual meetings of inbound marketers. Today she specializes in building memorable brand voices online, with a focus on the travel & tourism, e-commerce and tech industries.
Buying a new website is like buying a new car.
Both purchases usually involve substantial back-and-forth deliberation before ultimately making a selection based on aesthetic preferences.
Much like your new car will depreciate in value as soon as you drive it off the lot, so will your new website as soon as you hit "Publish."
Unfortunately, that's about where the similarities end.
Should you decide your new car doesn't meet your needs a few months down the line, you can always trade it in...your new website, on the other hand?
Who's going to want that?!
Such is the problem with traditional web design: Spend in the ballpark of $60,000, wait six to eight months, and receive a marketing tool that doesn't deliver the results you hoped it would.
Why Traditional Websites Don't Deliver
The reason the average websites fail to deliver ROI is quite simple: they are designed based on what the business owner thought would look good, instead of taking the target market's wants, needs and questions into consideration.
When a prospect visits your website for the first time, rarely are they ready to buy (no matter how gorgeous the site). Especially, if you're selling a premium product or service with a high price tag!
Most prospects organically move through three distinct phases before making a purchase:
When put together, those three phases are often called, "the Buyer's Journey."
Unfortunately, the traditional web design model barely touches on lead nurturing. Instead, it devotes the majority of its time to copious rounds of revisions based on aesthetic minutia (font sizes, sidebar details, color schemes).
Yes, it sounds good to be overly concerned with those details, and they are important. But they are pointless when website visitors can't easily find the information most important to them.
Introducing the Launch Pad Approach to Building Websites
After working with dozens of clients over the years, and growing frustrated by lackluster results, we asked ourselves a simple question:
What would it look like to build the perfect site?
In our opinion, the perfect website would not be optimized for the company's desires, but for the ideal customer. And, it wouldn't take 6+ months to launch and $80k to build.
The perfect website would clearly communicate a brand's vision, voice, and unique value; all while speaking to their target customers needs in their language. That means it needs to be quick to launch, easy to update, and will go through continuous iteration reflecting user preferences based on real user data.
The "perfect website" should:
- Visually AND verbally answer questions silently or verbally asked by prospects.
- Quickly go from concept to launch (within 60-to-90 days, instead of 6-to-8 months).
- Continually be improved upon, according to actual visitor data.
The solution: Create a Launch Pad website that supports immediate goals, while diverting the majority of the budget to data-informed optimization down the line.
Why do launchpad websites work better?
Launch Pad websites work better than traditional websites because they are infinitely more practical.
Instead of chasing some Holy Grail of design perfection, why not simply a). Quickly build a website that looks and performs better than what you have today and b). Use that website as a foundation from which you can collect real-user data and optimize.
The reality? You don't know how well your new website is going to be received until it goes live. Neither does your designer! Once visitors begin interacting with your site, you can make gradual design improvements based upon data points like web page bounce rates, clickthroughs, and traffic sources.
Not only does the Launch Pad process minimize client back-and-forth (that usually ends up wasting everyone's time), but it also ends up being significantly more affordable than traditional options.
Translation: Your site goes live faster, and you make money faster!
How to Successfully Build a Launch Pad Website
Like any other type of project, the ultimate success of a Launch Pad built site relies upon stringent goal setting and time management. Begin by defining the scope of what needs to get done and time-box it within each of the following phases:
Phase 1: Strategy (2 weeks)
Since websites built with a Launch Pad approach are heavily influenced by data, it should come as no surprise that you will initially spend significantly more time strategizing than you would when developing a traditional website.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, taking the time align on your target audience, your sales and marketing goals, and your value proposition from the start, saves time later on.
During this phase, you'll want to answer questions like:
- Who are our Buyer Personas?
- What internal and external struggles are they facing?
- Where can they be found on the internet?
- What questions are they asking during each stage of the Buyer's Journey?
- What action(s) do we ultimately want our visitors to take?
Phase 2: Website Prototype/Content Workshop Phase (2-4 weeks)
No matter how beautiful your Website appears, it won't do anything for you without the right messaging in place. During this phase, it is imperative that you not lose sight of your website's primary purpose: Qualifying leads and converting them into paying customers.
The best way to accomplish that is by writing compelling content AND designing pages according to best practices. Unfortunately, many agencies begin with design, instead of letting content lead. This is a HUGE mistake as it prematurely shuts off brilliant design opportunities that compliment copy and drive engagement.
The bottom-line: Let design inform content; not the other way around.
Phase 3: Design/Development (2-4 weeks)
Once you have everything wire-framed, you're ready to begin design and development. It's at this point many people wonder: "will my website be a cookie cutter template site?"
No, not at all.
While you may borrow certain foundational elements from others (modules like, testimonials, logo bars, and header hero sections), your website should feel unique unto you. As you begin to make choices based on your brand's identity (logos, fonts, colors, images, etc.), and the message copy, your site's aesthetics will quickly take shape.
With that said, don't get carried away: Remember, you're creating the foundation, not the house! Your site will incrementally become more unique as you modify design elements based upon emerging ideas, data, and feedback post-launch.
Phase 4: Launch
With your final design in place, you are now ready to launch! But don't break out the bubbly just yet; this is perhaps where a Launch Pad built website most diverges with a traditional web design project.
Since you didn't break the bank on design, your initial budget can "stretch out" to accommodate updates in the months that follow based on data points like web page bounce rates, clickthroughs, and traffic sources, to determine what's working and what's not.
At Lean Labs and SprocketRocket, we prefer to tackle these optimizations in 14-day sprints. This allows us to line up a prioritized list of optimizations, and time-box the work so that it gets built and launched quickly.
Should You Build a Launch Pad Website?
We believe businesses of all sizes and industries benefit from a data-driven approach to website design.
With that said, the process isn't right for everyone. If you're not committed to a long-term inbound marketing strategy, iterations, or continuous improvement you won't have the data you need to further optimize your site and compound your results as time goes on.
However, for those seriously seeking to use their website as a tool for increasing leads, customers, and revenue, we seriously recommend Launch Pad. It's more agile, more adaptable and most importantly, more affordable!
When approached from this pragmatic perspective, web design becomes less of a crap-shooting money pit and more of a symbiotic offshoot of the relationships you are building with prospects.