Website development projects are done in three phases. Strategy is the first one and that is where the most important decisions are taken. It determines the essence of the website and the scope of the investment. Also, the strategy is the foundation for the decisions of the design phase. If the strategy is not well done, productivity will suffer in the next two phases but most important, the website will not reach its full potential.
In order to be shared and discussed, the decisions taken in the strategy phase must be compiled. The format is not important. It may be a PowerPoint presentation or a text document. What matters is that the following information be documented:
- Site mission & site objectives;
- Key success factors for site;
- Target site users;
- Priority usage of site;
- Overview of security requirements;
- Draft inventory of content;
- Draft inventory of functionality;
- Overview of technology solution;
- Overview of organizational impact.
How do we arrive at these decisions?
Ideally, decisions for the we site strategy flow from the content of the organizational strategy and the marketing mix. Unfortunately, these are rarely found in a document. You must play detective with the management team to obtain this information.
In parallel, competing websites must be analyzed. This is not laziness, well maybe just a bit, but I would rather see this as a way to be more productive. Competing sites help kick start the inventory of content and functions that may be of interest to the target users. It is also a good exercise to determine one’s actual competitive position and estimate where it will be with the new site.
Other Benefits from the Strategy Phase
Often times, the development or redesign of a website is headed by a committee. Its members are selected because their departments are stakeholders in the web site. Consequently, they are rarely web professionals. A good chunk of the time spent in the strategy phase is used to coach the committee members on what the web can bring to them and to the organization. This time is well spent because the members will better understand the impact of their decisions and these will be less challenged later on, therefore avoiding delays and waste of time.
As I wrote earlier, the Internet committee is made up of representatives from multiple departments in the organization. They all have their own priorities and objectives. The period during which the strategy is defined is a good time to rally the troops to a shared vision of the website. Their support will greatly improve the decision process when designing the solution.
Now that you know a bit more about the strategy phase, make sure your agency covers all the points listed above. The profitability of your website depends on it.
You may also be interested in this article: Web Site Strategy and Organizational Strategy.