A web redesign project is not a one-man assignment. Certainly technology has made it possible for a single graphic designer or programmer to build a site, but not a high conversion site (in my humble opinion).
Instead, I think there are a number of key roles that must be fulfilled in order for a web project to be successful in turning visitors into leads and customers.
Role 1 – Web Strategist
Tying company goals and visitor needs into a website is perhaps more difficult that it looks. Unfortunately, the most common strategy seems to be “emulation” (copying your competitors), which has led to a glut of websites with the same problems that seem to have become a web standard. The web strategist should be responsible for creating the overall site strategy and then developing an actual site map, which will be followed by the rest of the development team.
Role 2 – Copywriter
Despite the web’s power to communicate with images, I believe that the web text is still the most important element on a site. Effective copywriting can capture the imagination of the reader, and create a highly emotive reaction. Good web copy, which must be spell-checked and grammarchecked, is always written for a specific target audience and often from the point of view of that target audience.
Role 3 – Graphic Designer
Graphic design continues to be an integral element to an effective web presence. Good graphic design accomplishes much more than just a “Wow, that’s cool” response. We suggest that graphic design supports the overall site strategy by creating an instant “That’s what I’m looking for” feel and also creating a clearly defined flow through the site.
Role 4 – Technical Programmer
Putting all of these elements into an actual site is yet another role: HTML vs. FLASH vs. PHP, etc. What screen resolution to develop for? How to facilitate lead capture through forms? Not to mention the myriad of choice relating specifically to ecommerce cart choice, credit-card transaction processing, etc., are all elements for which you’ll rely on your technical programmer.
Role 5 – Site Promoter
I read something the other day that said building a website is like “putting up a billboard in our basement.” Your site promoter’s role is to increase the number of qualified visitors to the site. The key here is that it should be done in a cost-effective manner. Pay-per-click, partnerships, landing pages, affiliates, enewsletter sponsorships, etc., can all be effective if done properly.
Role 6 – Web Strategist (Reprise)
After the site is developed, live, and has some traffic, the site strategist should continue to play a role in reviewing web metrics and other data such as pay-per-click results to determine where the site still needs work. Rarely are sites launched in their “optimum” state. A series of refinements will almost always be required to fine-tune the site for conversion.
Knowledge of A/B split-testing methods is critical for the strategist to provide maximum impact. Indeed, on going testing and refinement can ensure that the web continues to evolve as a corporate resource.
Before you tackle a web project single-handedly or turn your entire project over to a graphic design firm, it might be useful to consider who is going to fulfill each of these roles. Remember — just because anyone can build a website, it doesn’t mean that just “anyone” should.