9 Steps to a
By Marc S. Levitt, principal and
creative director, MSLK
Websites have become the most essential marketing
tool for businesses. One click from a customer is a
valuable opportunity that can make all the
difference. If created properly, a Website should
instinctively lead visitors where you want them to
In spite of the known value a good Website can
bring, take a moment and think about just how many
poor Websites you encounter every day. While not
every business needs their site to be a high-budget
multimedia extravaganza, every site should be
effective, and properly targeted to a company’s
Too many times people rush into putting up a quick
site, thinking this will hold them over until they
get around to the big launch. This is a fallacy—it
is almost always far more difficult to rebrand an
existing Website than to start with a good one.
In many industries there seems to be a huge gap
between resources devoted to “old-world” marketing
strategies and newer forms of media. Great Websites
result from an ideal combination of marketing,
branding, fresh content, and matching the right
technology to the right design.
The biggest—and most common—mistake we see is that
people begin their redesign without clear goals for
the initiative. Most sites are redesigned for purely
cosmetic reasons, overlooking the more crucial
content, navigational, and marketing challenges that
Here are nine tips that can help ensure that the
site you design today will be an effective
investment for years to come.
1. Start with a plan. Just like blueprints in
architecture, a properly executed wireframe shows
you how the new site will function before it’s
built. As you know, it is far easier to move a wall
during the planning stage, as opposed to an actual
wall during the construction phase.
Those same principles apply to Websites. Intense
focus should be placed on a site’s functionality and
content before the more subjective design phase
2. Don’t be seduced by technology. A Website that is
well thought-out and easily navigable will always
outperform the latest technology in the long run.
Hot technology features should be integrated only if
they serve the needs of the site.
Don’t feel that you need to include the latest
feature du jour just because everyone else is doing
it. Forget about dancing babies and dazzling light
shows. In the end, it’s the clarity and overall
“stickiness” of the content and ease-of-use that
will make the best impressions.
3. Get buy-in from all stakeholders. Too often we
see one person or division within an organization
pushing for a Website overhaul without seeking a
buy-in from their colleagues.
Website redesigns are an enormous investment of
time, and the late entry of a key decision maker
almost always undermines the intentions of the
group. Anyone worth getting feedback from at all
should be involved during the planning stage.
4. Consider the writing on the wall. This is no time
to go it alone, and certainly not the time to rely
on gut instinct. Take a look at the statistics on
your current site traffic. What pages are visited
most frequently? Where are visitors becoming
disengaged and exiting?
Seek feedback from your audience about what is and
is not working on your existing site. Send out a
questionnaire, conduct a phone interview, or form a
focus group--whatever it takes. You need to hear
what the people who use the site are saying, even if
it’s not what you want to hear. Again, it’s far
better to know this now, rather than after a costly
5. Guarantee freshness. One of the biggest
challenges with any Website is to keep the content
fresh and encourage repeat visitors. Plan specific
areas on the site that will be updated regularly,
along with designated areas that can be freshened-up
seasonally. This flexibility will allow your site to
evolve naturally over time without changing its
This can tie into larger marketing plans as well.
When refreshing your messaging to match current
trends, your Website will be able to round-out
campaigns, and connect the dots.
6. Be memorable. Our philosophy is that Websites
should give something back, rewarding the visitor
with every click. That means turning the ordinary
into the extraordinary. In the online world, it’s
all about first impressions. In the minds of Web
users, a better impression translates into a better
Be aware of this notion and strive to stand out.
This can be an interesting navigational element, an
engaging feature to set the tone, or simply the way
the content is written with soft sell techniques. If
people are looking at your site, they’re probably
also looking at your competitor’s. Be better.
7. Plan to promote from the beginning. If you don’t
tell people about your new site, trust me, no one
will ever hear about it! We have seen others invest
significant funds to launch a great Website, only to
see no results.
A detailed marketing plan will enable you to create
innovative promotions, online and off, that will
drive traffic towards the new site. A Website is the
mere beginning to a chain of marketing tactics and
while engaging features on your site will spread the
word, marketing in other medias will help drive them
to your site in the first place.
8. Search and succeed. These days we search online
for information about anything and everything under
the sun. That’s why your site needs to be in the top
10 when people are searching for you. The best
Websites are ones making effective use of search
engine optimization practices.
The Internet has a plethora of information out
there, and the higher ranking you have on a search
engine, the easier it is to get noticed. Scoring
higher rankings on search engines is an elusive art,
although there are standard practices which should
be considered from the outset, as it can affect the
site’s very content.
9. Hire a professional. Your Website will likely
become your most important marketing tool. So why
would you hire your nephew, ask an intern to learn
HTML, or in general trust your success to anyone
other than the very best?
Websites are very complex pieces of software
requiring an ever-increasing level of expertise to
build. That’s why you should interview qualified
teams to lead this initiative. The best way to
evaluate their work is to see examples of their
sites, and speak to their previous clients. Search
for someone who best suits your needs and
personality. The time it takes to find the right fit
will pay off in the long run.
Following these steps will ensure that your
investment of time and money is successful,
generating income for you, and interest for your
audience. Your Website is the greatest opportunity
to engage and educate consumers about your products
and services. Now, more than ever, you cannot let
poor Web design and navigation cost you sales.
---Source: i-merchant Feb 23, 2009
newsletter (www.multichannelmerchant.com). Marc S.
Levitt is principal and creative director at MSLK (www.mslk.com).
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