Another year is nearly behind us and as we edge closer to new horizons, now is the time to look back on 2021, how your business has evolved and what opportunities could be waiting around the corner.
Facing a blank canvas for the year ahead, we recommend taking the time to assess your website priorities to bring focus to your efforts.
In this blog, we discuss and share insight on:
- How the role of websites has changed in 2021
- Reviewing last year’s goals and pain points
- How to understand what you want your website to do in 2022
- What support you may need to achieve next year’s plans
How did the role of your website change in 2021?
We could talk about the accelerated shift to digital since the pandemic began until we’re blue in the face. It’s more than likely that due to the pandemic, your business and your audience’s needs will have changed in one way or another. Now that we’re another year on, has the role of your website become even more critical to business success?
This year has been a year of acceptance and further adapting. A notable shift in mindset has taken place with more and more businesses recognising the need to invest in building and maintaining a digital estate to succeed.
There’s no denying the digital realm has continued to evolve. Sharing our first-hand insight, here are some of the significant changes we’ve noticed this year and the ones we expect to continue:
- Operational moves: Large operational changes have occurred across businesses due to changes in working environments such as the shift to hybrid or home working. With this has come a heavier focus on site migrations and complex integrations with many choosing to move away from smaller platforms to bigger, more capable ones. In many cases, it has become more cost effective for a business to spend operationally on a website and automations rather than having multiple employees dealing with the same activities.
- It’s all about the data: More time and budget are being spent on understanding the end-user. This has made user experience a top priority with businesses wanting to create the most relevant, enjoyable and intuitive online experiences possible for their users.
- Long-term projects are becoming the norm: Conversations are becoming focused on a roadmap approach where businesses are considering the next 18 months and everything they want to achieve within this time. In addition, there has been a notable increase in businesses wanting to get stuck into bigger projects as they acknowledge what their internal and external users need their website to do.
- Iterative improvement is the only way: Rewind two years and there wasn’t as strong a focus on retainers or long-term relationships with agencies. But today, businesses are seeing the value of consistently investing in and maintaining their websites for the best performance. More and more organisations are kicking-off a project with a retainer plan already in place.
Did you reach your goals?
If you’re struggling on where to go next, looking at your goals from this year is always a good place to start.
Set the scene of what’s been achieved and where you’ve fallen short by considering questions such as:
- How have your audience needs changed since the start of the year?
- Are there new opportunities available that weren’t before?
- How have you continued to adapt and evolve?
- Is your site meeting the needs of your users?
- Are there new sectors to target?
- Does new content need to be created to satisfy your users’ needs?
- Has there been a change in the type of users you want to target?
Each of these can be considered in various contexts. For example, does your website design or branding need updating? Maybe your audience’s needs have changed, and new functionality is now needed onsite.
If your website has become more prominent to your business, is your legacy technology holding you back? Technical debt and out of date technology can negatively impact the user experience whether through slow site speed, a poor navigation or a clunky UX.
What has caused the most issues?
In some cases, your website may have been an internal barrier stopping you from reaching a specific goal. Due to how fast digital moves, your audience’s needs may well have changed over the course of the year. As a result, your goal posts will likely have changed too. If your website is no longer offering the experience your users expect, it’s likely to cause pain points.
This is a good opportunity to talk to your end users and internal teams. As the people using the website, they’ll be well positioned to provide insight into the difficulties it caused and, as such, the solutions that need to be put in place next year.
Ask questions such as:
- Has your website been an internal blocker and if so, how?
- Are you receiving an excessive number of calls or emails from struggling self-service users?
- Is your website slow or unresponsive?
- Is your site’s branding and design out of date?
- Is your website unable to carry out certain tasks due to lack of functionality?
- Is it time your website underwent an MOT?
What do you want your website to do for your business in 2022?
We’ve looked at the ups and downs of the year, now it’s time to look ahead to the next 12 months and beyond.
To understand your website priorities for the year ahead you need to know exactly what your business wants out of its website. Accurately defining these needs can be a difficult task. To help bring clarity, we recommend exploring some core discovery questions such as:
- What are your long-term objectives? You need a solution that will not only support your business as it is today but that will help you adapt as your goals change over the coming years.
- Who are your users? Consider your site users – both internal and external. Their needs, motivations, frustrations and the actions they take onsite should be considered as a top priority. Doing so will help you create a user experience designed with your users in mind.
- What technology is best for your needs? Selecting the right technology for your business is not a decision to be taken lightly. After all, if you don’t invest in the technology that’s best suited to your business and requirements, how can you ensure you will meet the needs of your users?
- Who should you involve? Web projects are well-known for the number of stakeholders that are involved. But a balance needs to be struck if you want to generate a rounded insight from the right people. Consider who you will involve from each area such as senior management, marketing, customer service and IT.
Get to know your users
An effective way to answer some of these questions is to really get to grips with who your users are. By analysing user behaviour, you can uncover impactful UX improvements to ensure the customer journey is as relevant and seamless as it can be.
This can be done through an in-depth discovery process and a range of comprehensive audits. By scrutinising your website through a UX audit, you can glean insights from a variety of factors including your code, user experience and content.
What support do you need?
Once you’re clear on what your website priorities are for the year ahead, it becomes easier to understand what support you’re going to need to reach your goals.
As digital becomes more prevalent and businesses seek efficiencies, now is an ideal time to review your agency partnerships and whether they’re as effective as can be. A big part of this is questioning whether the support your agency is providing is right for your business. Factors to consider include:
- What’s your business roadmap for the next 18 months and how does your website fit into this?
- Do you need to consider a project with multiple phases to make your goals more achievable?
- Do you have a plan in place to iteratively improve your site?
Your agency will likely offer some level of ongoing support as part of your partnership. But as your objectives change, their support may need to change with it. For example, as an agency, we provide:
- Retainer plans: A retainer plan allows us to take a ‘little and often’ approach. Whether its UX changes, new features and functionality, fixes, upgrades or performance measures, retainers are an effective way to implement continuous improvements in line with what you want to achieve.
- Support helpdesk: A support helpdesk can provide quick fixes when you need it most. Using a support helpdesk and ticketing system allows your agency to give fast website development and maintenance support.
- 90-day warranty: If this was the year you decided a digital presence was no longer a nice to have but a must-have, one of your goals for 2022 could be to launch and maintain a high-quality website. Some agencies offer a warranty period that extends beyond launch, providing peace of mind that a dedicated team will continue to support you.
- Timebanks: A timebank allows you to top up your development hours with your agency. These can be considered a dedicated bank of hours for supporting your website, whether it’s for installations, design and UX, guidance or general maintenance.
How we can help your business succeed in 2022?
A website that doesn’t serve your business or your audience can negatively impact your digital success including rankings, traffic and conversions alongside your reputation and trust.
A new year is a chance to get more from your digital offering. If you’re unsure what’s next for your website, we’re happy to share our knowledge that we’ve formed over the last 20 years of building websites. We’ve worked with a range of businesses from a variety of industries to help them create and evolve their digital presence:
- Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD): Bringing A Traditional Brand to A Digital Audience
- Royal Geographical Society: Building an Online Hub for Geographers