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A website project requires dedicated time and resources. Generally, smaller scale websites can take 2-3 months from start to finish, with more content-heavy projects taking 6 months+.
It is important to recognize the time and effort required to facilitate a website project. Consider:
- Who is going to project manage your site and keep you on track with your timeline?
- Who is going to liaise with stakeholders to obtain engagement and approvals?
- Who is going to review content and create new content?
- Who is going to learn how to use AEM in order to build and design your pages?
Setting realistic timeframes based on the resources you have available is important in managing expectations. Establishing your project team and roles can help avoid challenges further down the project.
The most important step in planning your website project is to establish your strategy. This should align your website goals with any broader communications plan and clearly articulate the purpose of your site.
Establishing a website strategy is a necessary step before your website can be provisioned.
When you submit your request for a new CLF4 AEM site, or a CLF2 > CLF4 upgrade, you will be asked to explain your website strategy. If you don’t have one, the C&M Web Team can guide you through this process.
Key elements of a website strategy
1. Define your website goal
Your overarching website goal will establish the foundation for your site. It will influence the site structure, information architecture and content.
Your website goal should:
- Explain the purpose of your site
- Highlight an element that is actionable and/or measurable
- Align with your key audience’s needs
The goal of my website is to build awareness of my lab’s research in order to recruit new lab members, gain funding and engage fellow researchers for future collaborations.
The goal of my website is to share my lab’s work with the public because they will find it interesting.
2. Know your users & their needs
Understanding your users or audience and what they want to achieve on your site will help you to organize your site structure and content.
- Who is your primary audience? Secondary audience? (General public is not considered a primary audience, try to be more specific so you can ensure your website caters to them)
- What key tasks will users perform when they visit your website?
- If you have an existing site – how are your users engaging with the content now? What are their challenges?
My primary audience is perspective students.
When they come to my site they want to:
- Read about the courses available
- Learn about requirements
- Learn how to apply
3. Define your internal goals
Meeting your user needs should be the top priority of any website, however it is also important to consider your internal goals as well.
- What tasks do you want your audience to complete? (ie: subscribing to a newsletter, completing a form, downloading a document)
- Is there a process that is currently not working and requires improvement? (ie: users are emailing the wrong people which is impacting internal workload because time is spent forwarding emails to the correct contacts)
- If you have an existing site – how are users achieving internal goals now?
4. Build your information architecture (IA) and content strategy
Once you have defined your website goals, audience needs and internal goals, it is time to build your information architecture. This is your top navigation and all your subpages. It should be built to prioritize the achievement of your website goals.
Choose labels for your top navigation that are easily understood by all audiences (even people who have prior knowledge of your work).
“About”, “Our Projects”, “Contact Us” all clearly indicate the information in these areas.
“The Grove”, “Subjective Approaches”, “Blue” do not explain what type of content will be in these sections
The C&M Web Team can provide feedback and support for your IA as part of the web development process, as well as provide tools for testing.
5. Define your design & build approach
Once you have your IA approved, you can start the content creation and build process.
- Who is going to write your content? How many stakeholders need to approve it?
- What is your timeline for content creation? How does this impact your project timeline?
- Do you have images for your pages, or do you need to source them?
- Do you have a clear understanding of the layouts available in AEM and how these will impact your content creation?
Remember, the C&M Web Team is available to provide a check-in during your build process. This can catch any issues with user experience and ensure your site is built with best practices in mind.
6. Establish your governance and updating schedule
Once your site is launched, it doesn’t mean your project is over. Having a comprehensive governance and updating approach is essential to ensure your site is favored by search engines and remains engaging for your users.
- Who will be allowed to make changes to your site?
- How often will new content be added?
- How long will content remain live? (ie: past events)
- Who will manage the governance process?
It is also recommended that you review your website data to monitor how users are interacting with your content. If you need assistance accessing your website data, please submit a ticket.