Brew has been solving peoples’ digital challenges since Zuckerberg was a kid. Working in sectors from hospitality to education, we like to think of ourselves as technical problem solvers… and at the moment, there’s no bigger problem to solve for businesses than increasing their bottom line.
For many, the opportunity comes in the form of digital solutions, something that many businesses are now fast-tracking in the current climate. Within these digital solutions, the prize asset for most is their website.
So, for those looking to commission a brand-new website, what should you be looking out for? What questions do you need to ask? What decisions do you need to make?
After nearly 20 years of building websites for a range of businesses, including Mitchells & Butlers pub and restaurant brands, the University of Birmingham, and B2B member organisations, I think there are three key focus areas:
- UX Design
Design is one of the most subjective areas of building a website. Everybody feels like an expert on design… which can be a bit of a nightmare. To give a relatively subjective can of worms some structure, I believe there are five elements to getting your ducks in a row.
- Colour palette
- Tone of voice
- Photo style
Even slight changes to each of these elements can have incredible impact on the look, feel, and ultimately the performance of your website.
Here at Brew, we would typically host a collaborative workshop where we’d investigate different variations of these five elements. The output would then be a Style Tile, which gives an idea of how a website could look before anybody lifts a finger on development. It also gives your front-end developers a good guide to follow and gives you something to show any other stakeholders in your website.
When it comes to commissioning website design, you can typically look at three levels:
Good: Lift and shift identifiable elements from your current website.
Better: Use your current website and update elements to give a contemporary look and feel.
Best: Go back to square one, really look at your brand and what’s important to you, and design a new website with all the latest style and functionality.
USER EXPERIENCE DESIGN (UXD)
Planning your User Experience (UX) is the art of guiding people to the things they want to find on your website. Ultimately, you’re making the website as intuitive as possible.
A good everyday example of this is thinking about where you would guess your Homepage button to be. If you guessed top-left, you’d be right. Next, where you’d guess your Shopping Cart to be. If you guessed top-right, you’d be right. Changing the location of these two items could have a big impact on the usability of your website. Now think about every element of your website and the considerations around each of these to ensure usability is optimised.
There are two areas we cover within UX:
Sitemaps are like building an intuitive filing system, laying out where everything should go. Some hard decisions must be made from the outset to determine what you prioritise and how your website is structured, based on your audience and their needs and goals.
We’d normally invite key stakeholders to another collaborative workshop to work through this, using sticky notes on a wall to map out the sitemap based on key elements such as analytics, heatmapping, and audience personas. This is then translated into the basis of the sitemap.
Wireframes are little more than boxes on a sheet of paper. I’m not exactly making myself sound like an expert here, but wireframes aren’t pretty, and they’re not meant to be. These boxes – their size, shape and location on the page – help you understand the structure of each page and the journeys your customers will take, which is incredibly important.
We’d typically manage this area through a prototyping tool which brings together Design and UX. Whilst not a working website, it uses interactive designs files to fully showcase them in an environment that truly gives you an idea of the website experience. Then, if there’s an element you don’t like, it can be changed or removed before you get to the more cost-intensive development phase, saving you time and money.
When it comes to commissioning website UX, you can typically look at three levels:
Good: Use a pre-defined template.
Better: Create a sitemap and wireframes using your experience and your preferences.
Best: Base your sitemap and wireframe on a detailed review of your old website’s analytics or market best practice. Then prototype it before you build to test your assumptions work
When looking at website platforms, we’d look at two areas:
- Content Management System (CMS)
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Typically, under each of these areas you’d find offerings that fall into the following categories:
Jack of all trades: All the core functionality, but restrictive in functionality and design.
Enterprise: Cost-effective at scale but requires significant investment.
Boutique Technology Stack: The best of both worlds. With the right developers, you can do almost anything.
Alongside your platform selection you need to think about your integrations…
These might be existing or new, but the options above will treat integrations in different ways. For example, integrations could include review websites like Trustpilot, voucher systems like Eagle Eye, email solutions like brew.mail (cheeky plug), and even a shop like Shopify.
As above, we’d say the Jack of all trades is restrictive on these integrations, the Enterprise solution will most likely want to build their own, and the Boutique Technology Stack enables you to integrate with the best third-party solutions available, giving you everything you need in a speedy, cost-effective way.
Now, this probably looks like we’re pushing the Boutique Technology Stack… and we are, as we’re currently building a web platform based on this approach. However, we also understand that the right approach for you is entirely down to your individual circumstances.
Factors that play a part in this include:
- What is the installation cost?
- What is the software-as-a-service (SAAS) cost?
- What past experience do we have?
- What is the ease of integration?
- Do I know what the strategic requirement is?
Depending on how important each of these answers are to you, you’ll find that a specific solution may be right for you.
So, that’s what you need to keep in mind when you buy a website… Future subject matters will be SEO, Content and Analytics to show how you fuel your website, but that’s for another day.
If you’re intrigued by our Boutique Technology Stack website platform, let’s have a chat.