A great user experience can make or break a potential customer relationship. So when it's time for a website redesign, the pressure is on to make your site exceptional. However, with the wrong approach, website designs can quickly get out of hand. Traditional website design processes are notorious for going over budget, and way beyond their projected launch date.
In all the chaos, it's easy to skip over crucial steps that ironically, will cost you more time and money in the long run. That's why the key to building an incredible site is coming up with an exceptional website project plan. With the right process, tools, and planning in place, you can bypass the common pitfalls that complicate website design projects.
The Secret To An Effective Website Project Plan
Ever try to go on a diet? Eager to begin, you stock up on low calories snacks and get a gym membership. You hit the ground running, but two weeks later, you're back to your regular bag of Doritos. Without a strategy and a goal-oriented approach, it was easy to go off the rails. It's the same as creating a plan for your website.
A website project plan is your North Star. It's your blueprint. Despite all of the delicious and exciting flavors of Doritos that float through your mind during a diet, the plan and the goals are what keeps you focused and on point. That's why we use an approach called GDD, or Growth Driven Design, to map out a project plan that relies on strategy and data. The method helps us streamline our process, and minimize the emphasis on design.
With the following steps, you can build a website project plan that keeps you on track and aligned with your overall business objectives.
Step #1 - Find Out What Your Customers Want
To build a website that will drive conversions and attract new visitors, you've got to understand your ideal customers. That sounds like a tall order since there are so many attributes that make up your customers. It's difficult to focus on all of them, which is why we use concise strategy templates.
These templates will help you refine buyer personas, and include:
- Buyer Personas - A lot of teams go too far with buyer personas, with a lot of information that isn't particularly useful or relevant. No one on your marketing team is going to leaf through 6-7 pages of insights whenever they need some guidance. You should only focus on the most critical aspects of your customers. This buyer persona template from HubSpot helps you accomplish that.
- Business Model Canvas - The Business Model Canvas is a one-page document that walks through the core problems, experiences, and trigger events that lead to your solution. Using all of this information, you can get a clearer idea of the fears, hesitations, frustrations, and assumptions that your customers make about your company and industry.
- Customer Journey Map - The Customer Journey Map exercise puts you right in your customer's shoes. You can see the brand experience from their point of view. Sometimes, it's not pretty, but through this exercise, you can identify tactics to improve or enhance the customer experience.
- The Buyer Journey - For each persona, you will walk through the awareness, interest, desire, consideration, and decision stages. As we like to put it, it's the content that will bait and hook leads, reel them in, and eventually transform them into a customer. Using this information, you can create messaging that is irresistible to your target customers.
By the end of this exercise, you will have everything you need to craft a brand narrative. The brand narrative will inform a website strategy and website content, which is the first step to a GDD website build.
Step #2 - Plan The Strongest Message
Strong messaging goes beyond great copy. It requires a plan of every website page we'll create, and the goal for each page. We begin with initial pages we plan on building, that provide information about our company, discuss our core offers, and educate the customer about our solution.
These pages include:
The entry pages will be the first impression you'll make on potential customers. These include your home page and various lead generation landing pages. You should go above and beyond on these pages when it comes to developing messaging. HubSpot has collected a ton of exceptional examples of landing pages you can use for inspiration.
Content Pillar Pages
Pillar pages are viral in marketing right now. Every brand is jumping on board, with companies like Buffer to HubSpot executing flawless, incredibly valuable pillar pages. Essentially, pillar pages each cover one of 3-4 broad topics that cover your areas of expertise.
These pages take a lot of work, but with a lot of positive effort, they pay off tremendously. With a great concept and excellent content, you can demonstrate your value and expertise in your industry, all while improving your SEO rankings.
(The HubSpot pillar page talks about robots. It's cool.)
You can find exceptional, engaged customers with belief pages. These pages demonstrate your core values. Here at Lean Labs, we're excited and enthusiastic about building great websites. It's why we do any of this in the first place. So on our service pages, such as this one about Growth Driven Design, we put all of that out there.
We're don't skirt over our values to get more customers. We focus on building long-lasting relationships with leads with a similar perspective about websites, and these belief pages help us find them.
Buyer Journey Pages
Buyer journey pages will help get out customers from point A to point B. Over time, we'll rely on buyer journey pages to help increase organic traffic, nurture leads, and bring in more sales opportunities. With highly effective buyer journey pages, motivated customers will move through our funnel faster.
These are the pages that sell. These pages provide clarity to your more qualified leads, helping them understand what all of your products and services are, why customers need it, what they'll get from those services, and how to buy it.
When planning which conversion pages you need, think through the products and services you offer. Can they pay for those services online? Can they buy those products online? Do they need to do a demo first?
These questions will help inform where those pages need to link to, and other pages you might need to build.
After deciding the pages we need, we document them and draft a sitemap. A sitemap looks like a grid and determines the hierarchy of your pages. Which pages will link to the navigation, for example? What pages do we need to support content offers or free trials? We use Slickplan to build site maps, and Mockflow is another excellent tool.
With the sitemap planned out, you're ready to plan the content of your website pages. You can use a tool like SprocketRocket to create a framework for each page. SprocketRocket features an array of modules, such as calls-to-action, headers, and testimonials that you can select and arrange to style your page. The tool automatically populates those modules in a HubSpot website page draft, making it easy to add in the copy.
Step #3 - Save Time On The Style
Let's revisit the diet metaphor for a minute. When thinking about going on a diet, a lot of people focus on the final aesthetic. For example, how they'll look, or what kind of outfits they'll wear once they lose weight. It's similar to traditional web design, where the look of the website is everything. As a result, you put the customer experience, the conversion paths, and messaging on the back burner.
That approach is pretty counterproductive to what we need websites to do now, which is attract potential customers, nurture and qualify leads. What you need is a site that's going to grow with your company, and help you reach your goals. So when you put together a website project plan, the design aspect should be minimal. The majority of your time and budget should go towards the structure and copy of your website.
Once you write, edit, and put website copy into your page drafts, pass them to a designer to style headlines, add images and video, and insert calls-to-actions. You can also use one of many free HubSpot templates to accelerate the design process.
Step #4 - Launch Fast, Measure & Learn
If you follow our approach to putting together a website project plan, you'll end up with a site that's pretty close to being perfect. However, we never recommend just launching sites and being satisfied with "close to perfect." You should always be optimizing the performance of your website.
Over time, things will break, and customer preferences will change. If you don't pay attention to how the site is performing, eventually, you'll need to do another redesign or refresh. So when we put together our website project plan, we plan to optimize over time. We set goals and objectives for ongoing updates and testing.
After launch, let traffic run through it for awhile, then use a series of tools to measure performance. These tools include all of the performance tools HubSpot offers, and heat mapping and screen recording tools such as Optimizely and CrazyEgg. With those tools, we see how our customers are interacting with pages, and judge where we can make optimizations.
Implementing The Website Project Plan
A website is a considerable investment, and that's why it's so important to get it right. By taking a more data-driven, customer-centric approach, you'll build a website that can grow with your company and help hit your goals. So while our website project plan has a lot of moving parts, we're confident that it's the best possible approach to web design.
We've spent years refining our website design approach. We're pretty proud of it, so we offer a free download of our SprocketRocket Launch Kit. With this kit, you'll get our step by step website launch process, with the tools and templates you'll need to put together a robust website project plan.