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9 Steps to Effective Web Site Development

By Marc S. Levitt

Time and time again we are asked our thoughts about what it takes to successfully rebrand a Web site. All too often this is followed shortly by specific questions such as “should my site be programmed in Flash?” or “are drop-down menus a good idea?” Sadly, questions like these do not get to the heart of the issues to consider when rebranding your Web site.
The biggest — and most common — mistake we see is that people begin their redesign without a clear set of goals for the initiative. Most sites are redesigned for purely cosmetic reasons, overlooking the more crucial content, navigational and marketing challenges that lie underneath. Here are nine tips that can help ensure that the site you design today will be an effective investment for years to come:

1. Start with a Plan
Just like blueprints in architecture, a properly executed wire frame shows you how the new site will function before it’s built. It’s far easier to move a wall during the planning stage, than an actual wall during the construction phase. The same principle applies to Web sites.

2. Don’t Be Seduced by Technology
A Web site that is well thought-out and easily navigable will always outperform the latest technology in the long run. Hot technology features should be integrated only if they serve the needs of the site. Don’t feel that you need to include the latest feature du jour just because everyone else is doing it.

3. Get buy-in From All Stakeholders
Too often we see one person or division within an organization pushing for a Web site overhaul without seeking a buy-in from their colleagues. Web site redesigns are an enormous investment of time, and the late entry of a key decision maker always undermines the intentions of the group. Anyone worth getting feedback from at all, should be involved during the planning stage.

4. Consider the Writing On the Wall
Seek feedback from your customers about what is and is not working on your existing site. Send out a questionnaire, conduct a phone interview or make a few house calls. Do whatever it takes. You should hear what the people who use the site are saying.

5. Guarantee Freshness
One of the biggest challenges with any Web site is to keep the content fresh and encourage repeat visitors. Plan for specific areas on the site that can pull feeds from your blog (you do have a blog, don’t you?), along with designated areas that can be updated seasonally. This flexibility will allow your site to evolve naturally over time without changing its fundamental structure.

6. Be Memorable
Our philosophy is that Web sites should give something back, rewarding the visitor with every click. That means turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. This can be an interesting navigational element, a splash screen to set the tone or simply the way the content is written. If people are looking at your site, they’re probably also looking at your competitor’s. Be better!

7. Plan to Promote From the Beginning
If you don’t tell people about your new site, trust me, no one will ever hear about it. We have seen the greatest sites launch, draining all their budgets in the process, only to see no results. A detailed marketing plan will enable you to create innovative promotions that will drive traffic towards the new site.

8. Search and Succeed
The best sites are ones making effective use of search engine optimization practices. This elusive art is something that should be considered from the outset, as it can affect the site’s very content.

9. Hire a Professional
Your Web site will likely become your most important marketing tool. That’s why you should interview the most qualified team to lead this initiative. The best way to evaluate their work is to see their sites and speak to their clients.

Following these steps will ensure that your investment of time and money is successful, generating income for you and interest for your audience.


Marc S. Levitt is the Principal and Creative Director at MSLK Inc., a boutique graphic design firm in New York. MSLK has helped hundreds of companies, including the Wall Street Journal, increase online sales and get the edge on their competitors since its founding in 1998.


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