Rebuilding or replatforming your site is an exciting, and often nerve-wracking, time for any business. You’re investing your time, resource and money into an extremely valuable asset for your brand. When you begin the process, it can be easy to initially focus on how you want your site to look because, ultimately, we all want a website that looks the part. But if you let the design of your site become your main focus point at the start of your project you’re potentially damaging the long-term success of your site.
While some agencies may offer designs from the offset, we work differently here at NetConstruct. In this article, we take a look at why you should never start your website project with a set design and how we approach your site rebuild to ensure success…
Flexibility is key when building your new website
Projects are never as linear as brief – design – build – go live. Throughout your website project, your objectives, goals and design are likely to shift. As you move through the various stages of your rebuild, from discovery and research to UX and design, you will learn what your new site actually needs versus what you initially thought it needed.
Many website projects stem from your CMS no longer supporting the business’s needs. From this, brands have the opportunity to overhaul their site. This means that while many brands are aware of the need to change, they don’t necessarily know the best way to drive this forward. It becomes easy to focus on the design of your site rather than the overall functionality because it’s easy to visualise.
However, starting from a design perspective skews your project from the get-go, with a focus on looks over functionality. Instead you should approach a website agency from a place of collaboration. Your project should come together as one, with you providing insight into what your ultimate end goal is and your agency provides the expertise and know-how to deliver it.
Working with an experienced agency, that won’t simply say yes to your brief, is important to ensure you get the balance right between looks, capabilities and making the most of your budget. Together, you can provide a better understanding of your business objectives and your web agency can provide the knowledge and technical capabilities to deliver a website that will drive success.
How your users should guide your website design
Do you really know what your users want?
Your website is there to support your users and provide them with the best experience online. But how can you provide a next-level user journey without taking the time to ask your user what they really want from your site?
Many brands believe they know their audience better than they actually do. While you may initially know them more than an outside agency, you need to go past your surface-level understanding of your user and dig deeper. Without this knowledge your designs are based on assumptions and not backed by data. It’s important to recognise that at the pitch stage, an agency will not have this vital understanding of your audience. This means any designs from the start of your project do not truly have the user in mind.
To create a website with your users at the heart of it, you should implement testing throughout your project. At NetConstruct we strive for meaningful feedback from your audience, using a variety of methods, such as:
- Click testing
- Preference tests
- Tree Testing
- Card Sorting
- Chalk Mark Testing
- User Interviews
- User Surveys
- Click Mapping
- User Testing
- Preference Testing
- A/B Testing
Taking this data, we can implement real changes to your website design that will improve the overall experience on your site. These tests often pinpoint parts of your site that the user doesn’t like, understand, or find easy to use. From this insight, you can then shape your website’s design.
Save your time, resource and budget
Your budget is one of the most important factors when undergoing a website rebuild. It’s likely that prior to approaching an agency, you’ve already been through several internal meetings surrounding your website costs and a rough deadline to go-live. With set figures and dates in mind, you may want to feel like you hit the ground running at pitch stage and receive design concepts from the very first meeting.
While it may sound counterintuitive to wait for designs, receiving them so early on only serves to slow down your project. By putting your blinkers on and pushing forwards with a design that doesn’t necessarily match your long-term goals, you’re setting yourself up for problems later on. As you undergo research, discovery and move into the build, you will find what you thought you wanted may shift. If you’ve pushed ahead with a design from the very start, you will most likely uncover parts of your new site are not fit for purpose, or don’t support your changing goalposts.
By steamrolling ahead with a design, you miss opportunities and cost yourself time and money undoing actions.
Selecting the right agency without a design pitch
Don’t be distracted at the pitch stage by a fancy design and let that waylay the potential of your site. While some agencies may come to your pitch armed with designs, there are several other factors you should consider when selecting your agency partner:
- Credentials: Creds showcase that an agency is recognised for their work externally. At NetConstruct we are delighted be part of the idhl Group, who have been awarded Prolific North’s No1 Digital Agency for two years running. We’re also an official supplier for MemberWise and have achieved Kentico Gold status.
- Partnerships and platforms: Who your chosen agency works with should be high on your priority list when making your decision. You need to understand which platforms they create sites on and whether those are suitable for your business needs. We work with Umbraco and Kentico to create bespoke solutions for your brand. Also look at an agency’s integrations, such as email marketing plug-ins, and if these align with your goals.
- Case studies: To get a better understanding of the work an agency can do, ask to see previous projects they have delivered. It’s also a great opportunity for an agency to showcase design ideas they have previously used without committing to a design at the pitch stage.
- Services: Your website is about more than just the initial build. What support an agency offers post go-live is just as important for the long-term success of your site.
- Bespoke or off the shelf: Does your site require bespoke design with functionalities unique to your brand or would an out-of-the-box solution be suitable? Ensure an agency has the capabilities to support your goals.
- Working relationships: Building a website is a big project and ensuring your working with an agency that aligns with your brand is important. Take the time to get to know the agency you may choose to partner with and meet their project team. With web builds taking anywhere up to a year, you need to be sure you can work together seamlessly throughout the project.
How we approach your website project at NetConstruct
With over 20 years of experience in the industry, we know what it takes to make a good website. The end design of your site is pivotal in the long-term success of your site, but basing your project on a design from pitch stage is only going to cause you problems down the line. At NetConstruct, we work collaboratively with you from start to finish, and long after go-live, to ensure your project succeeds. Our journey with our clients looks a little like this...
- Pitch stage: When we receive your initial brief, we take a deep dive into your business and the market you work in. Using your brief as our guide, we look at how our services and team could best support your goals. At the pitch we discuss our initial thoughts on the project and how we can help, providing examples of our previous work to showcase our breadth of experience.
- Research and Discovery: Our research and discovery stage provides the building blocks for your finished project. Undertaking workshops, user interviews, competitor analysis and more, we get to the very core of what makes a site successful.
- UX and Design: Your user journey and online experience are crucial to get right. With designs underpinned by creativity and backed by thorough testing, we create websites with your audience in mind.
- Development: When it comes to building websites, we have the inhouse experience to create a seamless online experience. Our team of developers are experts in our chosen platforms, delivering world-class websites.
- Ongoing Support: A website should never just be left post go-live. To ensure your site offers the best experience to your user, you need to continuously work on your site. We work with our clients on a retainer basis, iteratively improving your website.
If you’re looking to rebuild your website and need an agency that will guide you through what your site needs, not just what you want, get in touch with our team of experts.