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Website Development 101

Your online presence is a given in the 21st century — but your success there isn’t

When it comes to Web design and functionality, people get emotional. They love the website! Or they hate it! They want a new website because the old one is, well, old.

Los Angeles public media station KCRW was a 2015 winner of The Webbys, an awards program presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. It was recognized in the Radio & Podcasts category — the existence of which should tell you that your website matters. For those of us who are responsible for building and maintaining websites, it’s easy to take passionate feedback the wrong way. If you work in website design — or in digital content development — it’s important to remind yourself continually that people are passionate because they care. Passion is so much better than the indifference of no feedback at all.

If what you’ve been hearing lately concerns website redesign, let’s tackle this fun (albeit time-consuming) challenge in a way that will make your various constituents into happy campers.

It may seem intuitive to consider many other challenges before setting a goal, but you have to know your destination in order to find the best route.

For websites with at least a moderately successful level of organic traffic, your analytics are a good place to start.

For this exercise, be sure to filter out any traffic coming in via digital ads, as those metrics do not reflect normal organic behavior. Compare your year-over-year traffic for bounce rate; average session duration; users; return users; and top pages.

When the highest-performing page on your website is your homepage, you’ve got a lot of work to do in creating more enticing content, basic search engine optimization and building regular in-bound links from other websites.

Reminder: When you need a refresher course in what these key performance indicators mean, the definitions are just a search away. After your metrics review, agree on reasonable growth goals.

It’s safe to assume that most stations will want to drive website revenue, so put in the time to discuss revenue goals and how much of that money will be coming from integrated advertorial, page takeovers, rich media ads, banner ads and data capture. After you have a basic agreement on goals and an understanding of your budget, it’s time to find a construction partner.

How do you find your next great Web development agency? While this question is a non-starter for the large radio groups who do their own development, the rest are left to explore a wide array of choices.

Start with a list of requirements. For example, you must have a responsive website, so anything made for desktop has to be replicated and sized for mobile screens. You also want to surface your social feeds, such as pictures from your Instagram account showing up on your website. I’m sure you have many more specifics. Think big when creating your requirements doc because you can always scale back or develop in phases.

Let trustworthy colleagues know that you’re shopping for a new digital agency and ask for recommendations. Once you have a list of at least 10 companies, be sure that each prospective agency receives the same requirements document. Set a deadline for proposal submissions. Pick three to five finalists to present in person or via WebEx. After you’ve picked the two best, check references via phone so you can get a better sense of each company.

Your contract terms should include all the details from the requirements document, phased delivery dates, and hosting/serving fees, if applicable.

Having specific phased dates like “Discovery,” “Wireframes,” “Design/Art,” “Content Transfer/Upload” and a “Warranty Period” will keep you organized and on track. Carefully consider whether or not to include a “maintenance” phase that goes beyond the website build and launch.

I highly recommend that you keep up the relationship with your development company for at least a year after launch, and if you like what they’re doing, extend the terms. Over time you will want platform upgrades, new technology implementation, and even new designs.

So what did I leave out? Content. That’s a story for another day — and oh man, what a story! Without compelling and relevant content, a website is just an empty piece of art with a very high bounce rate.

’Til next time!