Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Determine Your Needs

Determining Your Audience | Your Content | What About Technology?

Make the right choices to optimize your site and to minimize costs

There are a number of factors we need to considere when developing an effective website.

What are your goals for the site? What do you think the site will accomplish? How will you know if you've succeeded?

Determine what are needs rather than wants. Your budget and your intended audience will also determine some of the parameters.

There are several important aspects to the design process as we work together:

  • A distinctive look to the site.
  • A compatible look and feel to your other promotional material and determining if these materials need updating.
  • A plan that includes your goals, specifies approval authority, examines testing and launch strategy as well as what we need to incorporate for site maintenance and future updates.
  • A review your future plans and goals so that the site design can accommodate anticipated changes.

What's Your Message?

The content on your site is determined by the sort of message you want to convey as well as what your visitors may be seeking when they land on your site.

There is no point drawing visitors to your site if you cannot satisfy the search queries that drew them there in the first place (something that can cost you in terms of your visibility on Google searches).

Your content needs to enhance your other advertising and branding but should take advantage of the benefits the Web has to offer, including technology that your audience finds compelling.

Starting the Discussion

We'll want to be more general at the start of discussions to determine the overall project scope. Be sure to include your current and future plans.

As the discussion proceeds, we'll move more into specifics and how we can best accomplish your goals within your budget.

Once we have fixed the overall plan, we need to decide upon some specifics.

Sharing Each Other's Expertise

You probably know more about your business or organization than I do, but getting the right message across will depend upon how well you can communicate your requirements in the language of the Internet.

I'll do my best to communicate the technical considerations in plain language.

Key Elements

What is that the impression you want your site visitors to have?

There are a number of key elements that we'll need to address, including:

  • Who is your target audience? What are their needs? How well do they use technology?
  • What is your message? Is it static or dynamic?
  • Who is your competition? What advantages or disadvantages do you have?
  • Are there sales, subscriptions or memberships?
  • How often does content change? What causes the changes to content?
  • Are you already engaged in social media like Facebook and Twitter?
  • Do you have a blog? Do you need one?
  • What is your budget? Does it include allocations for site updates and changes?
  • Do you or your staff have the time and inclination to commit to maintaining a blog or social media?
  • What results do you anticipate the new or updated website will produce?
  • How will you measure success?

Answers to these questions will in turn determine factors like:

  • site structure and layout (including navigation);
  • the need for e-commerce elements;
  • whether a blog or social media makes sense for you;
  • the site content, interactivity, & technologies employed; and
  • how the site content will be managed in the future.

We need to be realistic about your goals, capabilities and expectations. Not all factors are in your control, but we can focus on those we are able to control.

Be sure to voice any constraints up front such as budget limitations, timelines, personnel capabilities or anything else that could sidetrack the project. We want to set ourselves up to provide the best experience possible for your company, your staff and yourself.

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Who is Your Audience?

The more we know about your target audience, the more certain we can be about our choices.

Visitor Demographics

Demographics will determine what elements are necessary for the success of your project. The more you know about your demographics will allow you to select options that are better suited to the majority of your intended users.

  • Are you serving a known user base like the members of a club, association or organization?
  • Are they younger, older or a combination?
  • Is age or gender relevant?
  • Do you have special needs for accessibility?

Identifying your target audience will help to determine what sort of web presence you need and the sort of technology the site needs to address.

Video is Compelling

Traditionally, most sites have been compositions of text and graphics (images) but video is a powerful way to present your product or story.

If you or your employees are very effective with people, a video showcasing your staff serving customers or speaking about how they resolved customer issues can make the experience more personal for site visitors.

YouTube

YouTube and similar sites provide an economic way to upload and convert video to a usable format. YouTube can be linked to or embedded into your site and you can have a YouTube account where all your videos are listed in one location.

Infographics

Infographics can provide your visitors with a new way to view information about your product or service or share it with friends and contacts.

An example is this infographic (only a portion is shown):

“How Cyber Safe are You in the Digital Age?” infographic -- click to learn more.

Notice how colour and bold use of text and images can communicate a lot in a small space and is more compelling than text.

Meet an Emotional Need

Infographics require some thought and work best when they satisfy an emotional need as well as a technical one.

Infographics are created by graphic artists.

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Your Content

We need an inventory of any content you currently have and what we may need to generate to make the site work as intended. This includes site logos, photos, drawings, PDFs and similar content.

Is it Yours?

You need to confirm in writing that you have the legal right to use the content you provide.

Legal teams search the Web looking for infractions. The costs of including content illegally posted on the Internet can be very expensive.

See Copyright: Who owns the content?

Outside Resources

I maintain relationships with professionals in various areas of expertise including graphic artists.

Gather Your Materials

It is important that you provide all the proprietary text, images and video content before work can begin on the site.

I cannot commit to a timeline without having these materials in my possession in a suitable format that I can work with.

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What About Technology?

I have an excellent grasp on the design and building of the basic components of websites as well as the technology involved.

This includes an understanding of how websites work in the practical as well as the theoretical. However, I know my limitations.

Some content (such as video) has technical requirements best handled by a videographer. Others, such as infographics, require specialized artistic skills.

Will That Technology Work?

What will work depends upon your audience, the unique content you can provide, your in-house expertise as well as your budget. I listed a number of issues with technologies on the design considerations page.

Over time, the technology has gotten easier to deal with and more transparent, but this can depend upon the hardware and software your potential customers are using which can also be determined by your customer demographics.

Employing Video Correctly

If you plan to employ videos on your site, you need to understand the limitations of video when used on a website:

  • Video can consume significant bandwidth, a concern for some whose data plans are limited.
  • Videos that auto-start can be annoying. This can turn off potential customers.
  • Browsers like Firefox now disable auto-play on video, requiring the site visitor to enagle sound and/or video play.

How much this will affect the visitors to your site depends on the demographics.

Other Considerations

SEO

You've probably heard the term SEO (search-engine optimization). This is a double-edged sword and we should discuss how you can best enhance your presence without endangering your visibility on the Web.

  • One of the biggest boosts to visibility is your longevity (how long your site has been online).
  • Your domain name can have more influence on visibility and search engine presence than most other criteria. See the SEO advantages of a .CA domain.
  • There isn't much point in drawing people to your site with criteria that your site content cannot satisfy.

Beware of offers to place you on the top of Google's search charts. If SEO tricks are used and Google catches on you may become invisible to the Web overnight.

Site Analytics

Tools like Google Analytics can allow you to make changes to your site that better accommodate actual visitors. However, there are issues.

  • You need to have the budget to fine tune your site on an regular basis.
  • The necessary scripts add to the load time for your site and are increasingly blocked by users.

Privacy Considerations

People are getting more concerned with their privacy and the tools used to collect that information, including site analytics.

Consider what information you'll be collecting from site visitors, whether it is necessary and how you will protect it. Nothing can harm your credibility more than a data breach, especially if there is no purpose for the data you've collected.

Privacy tools like Ghostery and Privacy Badger are becoming more common and can disable analytics, perhaps skewing the data you're collecting.

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Related Pages

These other pages discuss the various aspects of designing a site:

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russharvey.bc.ca/criteria.html
Updated: October 29, 2019