Simon Smith is the UK Sales Manager for GOSS, a UK based WCM vendor. GOSS is a leading supplier of local government solutions in the UK. Their customers also include the UK ferry company Brittany Ferries and Breakfast Television broadcaster, GMTV.
8 Things to Consider When Starting a WCM Project
1. What is your core purpose / objective of your new Web presence?
A new website can be all things to all people so the first consideration when considering embarking on a project of this nature is to ask, what do you want to gain from your new website? This should influence your search for the WCM solution of choice.
For instance, if you are an online retailer then using a WCM with proven track record of this is vital and do you need to integrate with 3rd party systems (ordering/billing/tracking) as part of that? Alternatively, if you are a public body or media agency you will could be delivering 1000s of pages of rapidly changing content with tight approval processes, again choosing a partner with a proven pedigree in delivering this scale is vital.
Either way you will need to consider how your site will fit into your Integrated Marketing Communications plan. Your campaigns should have objectives that your online activity will support. Your website needs to tie in to your offline activity as well as your other online activity. Offline, make sure your messages, look and feel, and media are all consistent. Online, drive traffic to your site with clever PR (use of blogs and forums), online ads and PPC plus targeted email campaigns.
2. Carefully consider license options.
There are a wide variety of license choices available in the WCM market for the prospective buyer. Among the options available: 1) an Open Source (OS) solution, 2) a Commercial off the shelf (COTS) system, 3) a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution and 4) a traditional license model.
Open Source has its place, but it should always have a relevant and active user community to be a viable option for your organization. The COTS market has seen some significant consolidation over the last few years and this in turn is starting to bear its unpleasant side effects as companies look to rationalise their development platforms. While you can never know when or if your partner of choice will ever be subsumed, always look to seek a vendor who has a clear understanding of your market and a defined business strategy for the future. Certainly SaaS has some significant initial benefits to licence in terms of initial outlay, cost justification and provision of a business case. A key question to ask: Will this platform support your long-term aims and strategies if they eventually they include integration and diversification? In considering a traditional license model, ask yourself these questions: 1) Does the licence provide sufficient scope for growth? 2) Is it based per seat or per server? 3) Does it provide the capability of sub sites that have the same level of functionality as the main license? 4) What, if any, are the limitations in terms of numbers?
3. Carefully examine in-house skills and development.
Fundamental to your decision on license option, an organisation will need to consider where skill sets lie for the development of your new WCMS.
If it’s in house, do you have the skill sets already, are they up to date and are they up to the job in hand? Alternatively if you are looking for an external partner or development house to support you, consider these questions: what is their long term strategy, what is yours and do they match?
4. Integration – what do you need the WCM system to integrate with?
It seems obvious, but it is always important to consider what legacy systems - such as EDRMS, CRM, and ERP systems – do you want to integrate with? You would do as well to qualify and match vendors with proven integration case studies to your own in house systems as part of your initial evaluation process.
All too often it is after the contracts are signed that integration projects are raised, which can prove to be a very expensive afterthought. If that integration is in place does it fulfil your requirements and more importantly, is it included?
5. Carefully consider your hosting requirements.
There are two basic ways to host, DIY (Do It Yourself) or professionally.
If you host yourself you could be setting yourself up for a fall. Don’t do it. It is too difficult and the ramifications can be very costly. Professionals, on the other hand, will look after everything for you. Hardware, software, security and monitoring – all delivered to a defined SLA (Service Level Agreement). When choosing a partner for hosting, check that they are familiar with hosting your type of installation, ideally ask your WCM vendor for recommendations (and a discount). Some WCM vendors will host your site too. This is far and away the safest option and will save you hours when trying to fix bugs as there will be no passing the buck between agencies.
6. Carefully consider design, web 2.0 factors and user personas.
When it comes to developing the look and feel of your website, you need to develop a creative brief. The design brief should contain a range of information including project background, audience or user personas, and style and requirements imposed by your brand or corporate identity. Your design agency will be able to guide on this.
Start by gaining an understanding of your audience, this comes from data you have collected from online registrations and surveys (you could run one specially) plus the knowledge you already have about your target markets and their buying habits. For each target group develop user personas. These help give you a realistic picture of who your website is for. You only need four to six personas generally. Then define how each user type will engage with you depending on what they are looking for and how. If it is a simple transactional service, such as registering for a free service, you will have to work hard to keep them onsite with your key messages in front of them. If they are coming to you for recreation or detailed research, it will be easier to engage them. The former group may require a more creative use of Web 2.0 to generate user generated content.
7. Selecting a WCM partner.
Large projects can be bid out to your specifications. Make sure you set the criteria that are important to the web team and contributors before you start the process. These might be ease of use, technology platform or proven integration with 3rd party systems. You will obviously need to set a budget and be ready to attribute this to different elements; license, design, build, content migration, support and hosting.
8. How will you measure success?
Set objectives in advance so you can measure success. Typical metrics might include: 1) number of unique visitors, 2) number of users who register or buy, 3) how long they stay on your site, 4) how much they interact with it (adding content) and 5) how many users came from certain ad campaigns.
In order to measure these, there are free and paid for web analytics packages on offer (if they don’t come with your WCM). Google Analytics leads the free ones. You just need a gmail account to get going and then you have to copy and paste some code into your site. This will give you all the usual visitor numbers, referrals and search terms plus integrates well with Google Adwords. If you are running a larger retail site, then user journeys will be at the heart of your analytics. You might require a more feature rich package to enable you to follow users around and to discover where and why they drop off and do not complete every transaction and contain variant testing.