7 Questions to Ask Before Starting Your New Website Project
A friend recently asked me a question that really made me think. He asked, “10 years from now, what do you want to be the best in the world at?” This is a variation of the more common question about where do want to be in 10 years or what your goals are for the next 10 years. What I liked about his variation was that the focus in on what I want to develop in myself. It can be easy to focus on external goals and accomplishments, but we often neglect to look at what we are developing in ourselves.
Core to my understanding of the faith journey is the concept of becoming. We are constantly in the state of becoming more like Christ. There is never a time when you look back and say, “I have arrived”. No, there is enough work I can do in my own life and heart to keep me busy for the rest of my days. Perhaps that is why the question resonated with me.
I gave the question a fair bit of thought. My first inclination was to say that I want to be a world-class developer of people. Leading a company is a ton of fun and lots of work, but one of the best things is seeing people step into their gifts and flourish. That is a much longer lasting legacy than any company will be. My second thought of how to answer his query was that I want to be someone who asks stimulating questions. A wise philosopher once said “Judge a man by his questions, not his answers”. The longer I live, the questions seem clearer and the answers are increasingly fuzzy.
Asking good questions helps people to know that you value them and their insights. When we begin a new project, it starts with a question. How are churches communicating last minute details to their people? This is one of the questions that led us to develop our outbound targeted text feature. Asking better questions leverages better projects and better results.
In talking with lots of churches, I frequently hear that the project they need and want to focus on is their website. Websites are something that almost always feel unfinished. Before you launch into an expensive and time-consuming project, ask your team a few questions to help clarify the value of the endeavor:
What do you want your site to do?
Begin with the end in mind. You have a website for a reason. What is that reason? Is the main objective of your website to be a digital front door for visitors? Are you wanting your existing church members to come back again and again? How you answer those questions should guide what you build. Using good tools like google analytics, crazyegg, and SessionCam, you can learn how people are currently using your site. This might inform what your goal for the new site will be.
Who are you trying to reach with your site?
People are a unique mixture of their demographics, context, and experiences. Knowing who you are trying to reach can make drafting a message and creating a website experience that connects with them much easier. Begin by framing what you know about the people you are trying to reach. Is your site for visitors or members? Are you trying to reach millennials who are not from a church background? A great tool to figure out your target audience is a visitor persona.
How do you measure success?
So, you know who you are trying to reach and what you want them to do. That’s a great start. How are you going to measure effectiveness? When you look at the details of your website, how do you define a ‘win’? In marketing terms, we define a ‘win’ as a conversion. You can use a variety of ways to identify a conversion. Here are a few examples of goals that are easily measurable using google analytics:
- Destination goals: Is your goal to get the visitor to land on a specific page? You can use a destination goal to measure the number of unique visitors that load this page.
- Time on Page: If your goal is for people to consume information, you might use a time on page goal. This goal measures how long someone spends on a specific page consuming the content.
- Form Completions: A great way to measure success is to have people share information with you. Not only can you see how many people submit completed forms, but there are tools that you can use to show how many people begin filling in the form.
Who needs to be able to manage the site ongoing?
Bells and whistles are impressive, but depending on who you have managing your site, you might want to balance the complexity of ongoing management with usability. Define who will be the ‘owner’ of the website and who needs access to edit it. Having too many cooks in the kitchen can be a problem, but you also don’t want a website that is so complex that you need an internet wizard to manage it.
What do you want your site to communicate about you?
At its core, your website is a communication tool. What conclusions do you want people to draw about your church from visiting your website? Most churches spend some time thinking through how their lobby looks and the first impression it gives. In reality, most of the time your website is the first impression. A good website designer will help you with this, but if you are going to build a new website, take the time to develop a style guide that creates a look and feel consistent with your church’s DNA.
How will people find your site?
When you build a site, you have to consider the ways that people will end up there. This might influence the domain that you select for your website, the language you use in your site and the structure of how you build it. If you are starting a new site and you don’t know what H1, alt tags or SEO are, then find someone who does. Do this before you start because it is much easier to build this into your site on the front end than it is to do it after you have launched. To learn more about this check out Kissmetrics.
Do you REALLY need a new site?
Perhaps, the most important question you can ask yourself is if you need a new site or if you can improve an existing site. Building a site takes a ton of time and energy. If it’s possible to improve an existing site, you might save significant money and time in the process. If you have asked yourself the 6 other questions, now take the time to evaluate your existing site to see if you need to start over or just make improvements. A key consideration is how your site performs on mobile platforms. If your site doesn’t work on a phone or tablet, then a new site might be worth the effort.
What other questions should you ask before starting your website redesign?