If you want to get more bang for your buck with your website, you need to get lots of feedback from your customers on what they want you to publish online and how they want it organizing
The critical thing to remember is a website becomes successful because it meets the needs of its users. If you just focus on your online goals and what you want to "tell people" you're heading for trouble.
So when you're planning your online website strategy, before it gets to the development stage, ask a group of customers or people within your target market for their suggestions and ideas during the major phases of the decision making would be a smart move.
When completed, you'll have a website that is pleasing to your target audience - which at the same time is helping you reach your business goals. Here are 3 stages of website development where the users' inputs are critical to its success.
1. Gathering Data
A fundamental component of any website is its content and the menus and navigation. When you gather information about your target audience profile, you can implement your content development strategy. Simple, effective ways to get information is by asking them to answer a short questionnaire - ideally online - and following up with a detailed interview with a sample group of 15-20 people.
Knowing the demographics of your potential users and understanding their online behaviors, their goals, outlooks and what motivates them allows you to make a content development strategy that caters specifically to them.
If you're creating something people don't want to read, you’re wasting your time and money, or isn't pitched at their level of interest, or organized in way they want to use it.
As well as asking them what information they want, ask them what format they would like it in. Perhaps they want video, audio, something they can print out? These days, it's straightforward to reformat your information into lots of different audio/visual media.
2. Creating your site map
When you have identified the profile of your users and what their aspirations are, you know the kind of content you will fill the site with. Involve them in the decision of the structure of your site map by writing down each piece of content on a card and giving these cards to them.
Then let the users sort them into groups that they can understand. Using the results of their preferred grouping, you can proceed to making your site map based on the train of thought of your users, and not yours.
3. Putting together your website design
With the site map structure in place, you can advance to the page designing part. Sketch the primary page layout onto paper, and then ask some site visitors to complete tasks on a paper prototype. Improve the final outcome of your website before you consider building a clickable wireframe prototype and do further usability testing sessions. Put some basic design elements on your website blueprint (wireframe) and ask people what they think about your new website plan, so you can gauge how popular the finished site is likely to be.
If you spend some time getting your website strategy right and spend some time planning how your site needs to work, you'll find you spend a lot less money later on a website that fails to deliver.