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Unpacking the ‘why’ behind your website design journey

Website Design Journey | Edgar Allan | Blog

This article is part of our series on four essential questions to ask when building a successful website, specifically part of question three: why are you doing this at all?

So you’ve done the work of figuring out what your website is for, and what kind of website you need to build as a result. As a quick refresher, you might be building an introductory or enticement site, an informative site, a sales site, or a knowledge leadership site

Whichever route you choose, there’s another question you’ll want to entertain before starting to build: why?

Why are we doing this? Why are we embarking on a journey of usability and content and fun an pain for the next few months? 

It’s a higher-order question that gets at the core of how you serve your customer and the essence of your brand. Here we’ll discuss how to properly shape the question — and what to do with the answer.

How do you figure out the “why” behind your website?

Any chance you get to level up the questions you're asking is a good one when you're starting a web project. And even if you're not working on strategy — someone should be, by the way — your job before a website build is to get to the root of a need. And to do that, you have to dig deeper than what needs to be done (build a website) or how it'll be done (with Gantt charts and designers and Webflow and such).

Your proposed digital project is filling some kind of need. What kind of needs are we talking about?

 It might be an audience need for…

  • Information
  • Direction
  • Validation
  • A thing they want to buy
  • A new or different product or service

Or, maybe it’s a company need for…

  • Exposure
  • Connection
  • Clarification
  • Justification of a new offering

When we work with clients during discovery, we start by getting a sense of their company in terms of brand. Think: Why do you do what you do? What gets you up in the morning? We also want the backstory. What got you to this point? Maybe you have a website that hasn't been developed or updated in 10 years. Soon, we’re pouring through information about challenges, leadership, and what that client might encounter as they move forward. Another great question we love is, why now? What events or driving forces have come together to mean that today is the day?

These aren’t just questions for the C-suite. Members of the sales force and customer service team, for example, bring a wealth of insight into these discussions, often from a “boots on the ground” perspective. We take the time to talk to a wide range of employees, digging for the deeper motivators that will shape our approach.

What do you do once you know the “why”?

As an agency, once we know the why, we gain insight into the client’s:

  • Brand or business
  • Leadership style
  • Company values
  • Long-term goals

We get a glimpse of brand strategy, and grounding in strategic story, which form a key foundation upon which to base content and design decisions. “Why” even clarifies whether or not a website is the right mode of delivery. Would everyone’s time be better spent on an app, portal, or printed brochure given the principal need at play? From a messaging standpoint, it can also help you understand how your internal narrative speaks (or doesn’t) to your external one. 

So what do we do with all these glorious insights? The short answer is that it depends. Let’s examine two scenarios and how we work with the “why” to move our clients forward.

Example “why” #1: Nobody has ever understood our complex, convoluted offerings. 

Here’s what we do with that information: First, we will of course focus on structure, organization, explanations, and concise content  to make the offering more clear. Second, we’ll examine the offerings themselves. Is there a broader conversation to be had, for example, around how to better name or classify the products? Are the products grouped in a way that makes them more difficult to understand or differentiate between? In other words, we’re looking at how the website can support the solution, but we’re also thinking about the customer experience holistically so that the offering housed by that website also drives greater clarity. 

Example “why” #2: Our sales force can’t seem to have an informed conversation with prospects.

Here’s what we do with that information: We research the sales process and determine where the website can fill information gaps for the user. We’re probably crafting a higher level message and conceptual story to help users see the value of the offering. Depending on what our discovery turns up, we may also work on sales scripts or other collateral that can help boost the brand narrative and create alignment across marketing and sales. 

Example “why” #3: Our current website is ugly

Here’s what we do with that information: Sometimes, the “why” isn’t all that complicated to articulate, but it does a world of good in helping us figure out where we need to focus our attention to knock it out of the park. Your website is ugly? We’ll need to hear more from you on why that is, but we already know this project is all about flawless design, and we’re off to the races.

Follow the “why”

“Why” is a beacon. It directs all the parts and pieces of site creation from the blueprints, the wireframes, the communication of ideas via content, photography, and  illustration, the visual design, the flow and feel, the tone and the technicality, the machinery that makes it accessible and usable, the list goes on. Our goal is to make the “why” obvious and visible so that everybody can visit the site and feel it. 

So before you start making bigger plans for your website, stop and ask this simple question: Why are we doing this? Why are we making this new site? And then like a lighthouse, you let the answer guide you through the project.

Interested in partnering with Edgar Allan on a web design, brand, or content design project? Get in contact with us today.

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