For any online business to succeed and remain relevant, you need to continuously review what is and isn’t working. At a minimum you shuld do an annual review where you check your assumptions and apply your learnings for the year.
We’re often asked to help work through this process. Below is a useful checklist when you’re looking to update your online business.
The most important element is identifying your target market, i.e. who’s your ideal client, the second level client, third level client etc.
You need to identify the tone of your site, i.e. if your site were a person who would they be: gender, age, look, way of speaking.
It’s well worth checking out Stefan’s excellent Brand Profile Creation piece for more details.
The most important barrier you have to overcome when setting up an onine business / website, is Trust. You have three key barriers that users have to overcome:
You have to put enough information online so that users who do not know you / your brand / your products are able to buy into them.
It’s essential that you take your customers’ perspective on this, don’t assume they have any knowledge of who you are unless your company / brand is a household name already.
What are going to be your revenue drivers?
Rank them in order, e.g. subscriptions, service / product sales, ad revenues.
These define the priority in how they will be showcased / ordered.
What are the priorities you have with the website, e.g. customer experience, client sign-ups, revenues, usage growth
These determine a lot how you build your pages and what you showcase.
In our experience the simpler the proposition and presentation, the more likely business will take off online.
What are going to be the hooks that bring people back to your site regularly, e.g. blogs, news, stats, tools.
Do an analysis of what’s driving the most traffic on your current site.
Without these hooks, people won’t see what else you have to offer.
How are you going to get people into the site online: SEO / PPC / Social / Affiliates?
How are you going to do it offline?
If all your content is behind a paywall then how is anyone going to know about it?
What do you make available through your SEO account, remembering that these pages are available through the Google cache?
Here’s a useful guide to getting started with the SEO.
What content types are you going to be creating, which are going to be the primary hooks, i.e. the things which bring users back regularly (daily / weekly)?
Types can be news articles, blog posts, analysis pieces.
Tools can be searches, special widgets, sector specific tools, mashups etc.
Most importantly, who’s going to be creating the content. Note that if you’re relying on users to do this for free then you’re likely to be disapointe with the results. All the best communities have great community leaders who drive them and create the core of the community content.
The sitemap is absolutely key because it helps you organise your ideas on the main content categories, hierarchy (priorities) and tools you need.
You really can’t create a good site without having thought through your sitemap first.
Two key wireframes that you should have, even if you don’t do any others initially, are the homepage and a standard content page.
They will help you define the top level thinking for your whole site.
It’s also very useful to define your most important user journeys, e.g. a user signing up / buying; navigating to sector specific tools; updating their profile etc.
What do you want to do with your community, how can you leverage it / grow it the fastest?
Will you have pro community manager / moderators for forums, comments, blogs, networking etc.?
How much do you want to plug into the social nets? Which ones?
What platforms are you targeting, i.e. Desktop, Laptop, Tablet, Phone, TV?
What’s the priority in terms of revenue generation?
Does everything have to work on all platforms?
Are you going to do a single design / have multiple designs for different form factors?
Will apps help?
It’s also going to be very useful to look at your competitors and see what they’re doing, who / what do you like, and what don’t you like?
What’s going to be the best way to set up and showcase your products?
Do you have a big catalogue? In which case navigation, drill-down and product searches are key.
Do you have a high-value product set? In which case high quality presentation and community engagement is key.
Is the conversion process optimised, i.e. how many clicks does it take to get the user from a promotion through to the checkout submit button.
Do you have the right content and media to go with your products, especially when it comes to SEO?
Are you best off automating the product catalogue with your back-end catalogue / ERP solution?
Pop up some new feature ideas and see which ones users click on, using Google Analytics to see which ones are the most popular.
Remembering that these don’t have to exist, they’re just promotional banners / links which sell the idea and they can lead to a landing page / 404 page, you then see which ideas are the most popular.
Note that this is just a barebones check list, but one which if followed, might lead you to having considerably more success.
If you want more in-depth analysis and guidance then we’ll be happy to come and see you.