There are a lot of small businesses out there that believe they need a website; or an internet presence. Unfortunately they have no idea what to do with it… they just know they need it.

So what do they do?

They contact a company like Hello Goat and ask what it costs to make a website. They have no idea what they are asking for, they just know that they need a website and it’s going to cost them money.

So what does Hello Goat do?

We send them a list of questions we want them to answer before we start talking about how much this website is going to cost. We do this to prepare them for the reality of owning a website. We do this to prepare them for having an online presence.

The list of questions and categories looks like this:

General

  • What are the objectives you want your users to complete on this site?
  • If information gathering is a goal, what would you like your users to do with the information gathered?
  • What is the most important message you want your gateway page (home page) to communicate?
  • What is the overall visual tone you are looking for?
  • Who is your competition? What distinguishes your business from them?
  • Are there any urls that you feel communicate in a similar fashion that you what this site to communicate?

Audience

  • Why is the site needed?
  • Who is the audience? What is the major demographic of potential site visitors?
  • How will this major demographic use this site?
  • What are the key reasons users may have for visiting the site?
  • What should visitors of the site come away with?
  • What knowledge level of your products and services do your users come in with? Novice? Intermediate? Expert?

Content

  • What content will be needed for the site?
  • What sections and features will need to be included?
  • What already exists and what needs to be developed?
  • Is the content on your site an overview/marketing level or is more of a research/wiki level?

Communication

  • What should the site communicate?
  • What are the primary objectives and goals (long and short term) for the site?
  • Are there any actionable messages on your site? If so, what do you want your users do with them?
  • What methods do you see your users contacting you?

You will notice that some of the questions are asked more than once… we do that because we are trying to get at different parts of the same question. The questions themselves fall into different categories and require slightly different answers depending on the category.

Let’s take the cover off these questions to understand why we ask them.

General Questions – these questions are used to get you in the proper mindset about your new website.

What are the objectives you want your users to complete on this site?

Plain and simple… we need to understand what your users are suppose to be doing on your site so we can get the information architecture right.

If information gathering is a goal, what would you like your users to do with the information gathered?
What is the most important message you want your gateway page (home page) to communicate?

These two questions go hand-in-hand. We are looking to see if you have put any thought into what tone you want to strike with your audience and what first impression you want to give visitors of your site.

What is the overall visual tone you are looking for?

This question tries to uncover any visual direction you may have in your mind. It also is meant to spur some investigation on your part. We want to you to look at any creative you have for your company like, brochures, logos, product packaging, etc. We also want you to think of your audience when it comes to this question – what visuals will be helpful and appeal to them.

Who is your competition? What distinguishes your business from them?
Are there any urls that you feel communicate in a similar fashion that you what this site to communicate?

These two questions are very important for a new website. They are meant to get you to think about your competition, look at their sites – not from a design standpoint, but from an information standpoint. You need to look at and understand the level of content and the messaging they are providing to connect with their audiences. You can learn from them – good or bad… what to do and what not to do.

Audience Questions – these questions are specifically meant to get you to think about your audience and how successful you want them to be on your site. You want to make sure your visitors can accomplish their goals on your site in a easy and efficient manner.

Why is the site needed?
Who is the audience? What is the major demographic of potential site visitors?
How will this major demographic use this site?
What are the key reasons users may have for visiting the site?
What should visitors of the site come away with?

What knowledge level of your products and services do your users come in with? Novice? Intermediate? Expert?

All of these questions are related. We are really trying to get into your head and see how you see your audience. We need to understand how you segment your potential clients and visitors to understand how the information architecture works on the site. We re-ask some questions like “What should visitors of the site come away with?” We do that to make sure you are thinking in context of your audience.

Content Questions – these questions may seem redundant, but are very necessary to answer. These questions get at the heart of the messaging for the site. These questions are so we can understand why someone would come to your site and use it.

What content will be needed for the site?
What sections and features will need to be included?

These questions may feel like you have answered them already, but they are really meant to get you thinking about the structure of your site and the information flow. How will your users move though the site to accomplish their goals?

What already exists and what needs to be developed?
Is the content on your site an overview/marketing level or is more of a research/wiki level?

These questions are to get a sense of what materials you have or have in mind that will help you communicate to your audience or what will you need to produce in order to make a successful website.

Communication Questions – these questions really wrap up the vision of what you want to accomplish with this new site. What would make this site successful for your business?

What should the site communicate?

This question is the final question on what you want your site to do for you. This should be answered in context of everything you have answered so far.

What are the primary objectives and goals (long and short term) for the site?

This question gets to the overall vision of the site… Are you launching a marketing site to educate new users who you are and what services you provide? Is there a long term vision you have to turn this site from and informational site to a transactional site?

Are there any actionable messages on your site? If so, what do you want your users do with them?
What methods do you see your users contacting you?

These two questions really sum up what you want your users to come away with from your site and what are the next steps to retain these people as customers.

As you can see, there are very few questions that talk about the design… The reason is we know how to design a site, we know how to put together creative ideas that will appeal to you and your audience. What we want to do is to give you more than just a pretty design, we want to give you a website that you can use to help you sell your goods and services, educate your users or inform them of your mission.

Jeffery Zeldman said it best when he said, “Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”

This is the tenant that Hello Goat lives by. You don’t just need a pretty design… you need a website that works.

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8 Responses to “Think you’re ready for a website?”

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