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You know your website is behind the curve and worry it may even be pushing customers away. But you’ve been putting off redesigning it for months because you’re not sure where to start and don’t want to waste time doing things that are unnecessary.

So where do you start? At Web Trails we start with a check list. It takes less than 30 minutes and pays for itself many times over in the time it saves clarifying our thoughts and briefing the designer.

You’ll need to track down web address (URL), user name and password for your accounts with the companies that host your domain name and website. These may one and the same.

2 .Review the existing website, what are its strengths and weaknesses?

Have a look at the old site. Jot down what it does well and the aspects you like and want to keep. Think both of design and functionality. Make a note of areas to be improved. If you employ Google Analytics or Google Web Master Tools, now is the time to review the data they’ve collected. What pages are popular? What search terms are being used.

3. List in order of priority the business objectives for the new website

Think about how your website can help meet your business objectives. Perhaps you want more people to sign up for the newsletter or get in touch by phone. Perhaps you want more online sales. Every business is different. Once you have your list, pair each with a SMART objective and a metric you can use to measure success. e.g. I want 10 newsletter sign ups a month or to sell 20 units a week. Giving each a target makes it easy to review the performance of the new site.

4. List the key words and phrases you want to rank on Google

What words do customers use to find you and your competitors on Google? There are a number of ways of finding this out. The obvious one being to ask them. You can also review data collected by Google Analytics or Google Web Master Tools. Depending on your business requirements, identify between 5-10 phrases. Then ensure your content provides useful information for customers searching using these phrases. The words/phrases should also be used as headings and in your navigation.

5. Identify five websites you like and a couple you really don’t

This will help your designer visualise what you want. It will also help clarify things in your own mind. Bookmark any website with a structure you like, colours that appeal and fonts that impress, etc and well as a couple you hate.

6. List any special functionality you require

From a contact form to an event management system, newsletter subscription to photo gallery. Jot it down. If possible provide examples of where you’ve seen it done well (or badly).

7. List any branding requirements

If your brand requires certain colours or fonts. Or the logo has to be a certain size or against a certain background. Jot it down.

8. List all the pages you want on the site

Even better set them out as a site map.

9. Content

Content is king. That’s more true today than ever. It’s content that keeps visitors on websites. It must be useful and relevant, and based on the search phrases you identified earlier. But remember content must be written for people not search engines

10. Images

Images and video will bring your website to life. Visitors can rarely resist playing a video and images say 1000 words. If you don’t have your own images there are plenty of online image libraries.