Step 1 | Strategise

It all begins with a clear strategy that is understood by the relevant stakeholders. Once the buy-in or commitment is obtained, it creates a burning platform for change. Key to the strategy is to focus on the following:

• Web presence – once your organisation is on the web, it has gone international and crosses all boundaries. The image and branding of your organisation is equally important on the web as it is on bricks and mortar.
• Communication channel – the web presence provides a communication channel that is predominantly one way. Newer advances in the web sphere now make reference to ‘mass collaboration’, where users can generate their own content on your website. Features such as instant messaging (IM) allow users to chat online, blogs allow you and users to comment on chosen topics, share content, and anything else that is fairly interactive.
• Marketing channel – new products or service offerings can be developed by users of your organisation’s products. These aids in your organisation, help you to get to know what works in your product line and what can be improved to give you a competitive advantage. Selling products on the website would mean that it would be dynamic, and some sort of integration would be required into the back-end systems. This creates an additional stream of revenue, or at least, an alternative method of engaging with your organisation.

Cross-selling and up-selling your products by leveraging new media marketing techniques can work, but both require effort and research.

Once the site has become attractive and many visitors are engaged with the site, then it becomes worthwhile investigating new media marketing to improve revenues.

A good way to figure out if your strategy has worked is to have objectives, measures and targets for the above strategic focus areas.

Step 2 | Design
The Site Map has basically two great uses. One – it is a great place to start brainstorming and figuring out what should be on the site and how easy it would be for users to navigate. This would help you understand the user experience once implemented, and it can then be updated based on hits per page. Two – the Site Map is also used by web crawlers to index the site.

Whilst on the topic of indexing content, it would also be useful to incorporate a search facility on the site, making it easy to find content. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is important so that search engines are able to find your site and content, and prioritise it when people are looking for the content or products that you are selling. It would be wise to research SEO methods or employ someone, such as a copywriter or a specialist firm that deals with SEO.

The website skin is the next important activity. It is advisable to use an organisation’s design company to create the design elements that will be used in the website skin, so as to maintain consistency with the organisation’s brand.

The site map will guide you through the type of content that should be on your website. It would be worthwhile using a copywriter that has experience in web copy or simply create your own style guide that will help all the content contributors to be consistent and uphold your corporate image. It is important to note that the way that you write an article for a journal or magazine is slightly different for the web – it has to be simplified. The content should have a good balance of text to graphics, and even music or videos if applicable.

The site map and content must be stakeholder-centric and grab the attention of your stakeholders. The site must be geared to provide newsworthiness to the reader.

Finally, if the users are to trust the information and the transactionality of your site, then it would be important to provide the relevant disclaimers, security, privacy, and terms and conditions of the site.

Step 3 | Build
The development of the website can be in-house, or given to a specialist web design company. Whatever the choice, be sure that the technologies fit into your organisation’s technology architecture. This will guide you as to which option on which you should decide.

Rakesh Beekum, ND CDP, MBA, is Chief Information Officer, SAICA.