Strategy involves research and planning, which is essential for any digital project. With research comes deeper understanding and insight into the direction your website needs to take. Having a clear direction results in plans that are precise and on target, which in turn allows you to connect with your audience and achieve your goals.
There are six steps included in the research and planning phase that are summarized in the table below. Each item and its role receives a fuller description in the paragraphs lower on this page.

Research item Its role in strategic planning
A thorough understanding of your organization leads to accuracy in portraying it online and targeting its goals
Seeing how you fit into your sector amongst your competitors. Where’s your commonalities and differences.
A deep understanding of your audience, their desires and what motivates them
Breathing life into the raw research data by giving it a face and personality
Creating the trail of how your user will go from the page they land on to taking the steps needed to achieve your goals
Translating the user’s journey into information, features and functions that are needed on your website

Client Research

This is understanding what your organization is about through interviews, online research and inhouse study.

From it comes an accurate picture of:
  • How you are organized and function
  • What you are offering and how it fulfills your mission
  • How your goals for the website fit with your organization

Competitor Analysis

This is online research into how your competitors are approaching the same questions you are.

Information from this research:
  • Saves time by looking over the field
  • Shows what has already been tried and worked or failed
  • Indicates how to differentiate you from your competitors

Audience Research

You may have a variety of audiences visiting your site, all with different needs and expectations. In order to create a website that really hits the mark, it is essential you have a deeper understanding of your key users.

User Research reveals:
  • What the target audiences’ background and demographics are
  • What your users are hoping to find when they come to your site
  • What is the big picture or motivation to engage with your product or service
  • What is their familiarity with the technology

Persona Development

A persona is taking the dry facts and figures from research and creating a lifelike figure with them. This represents a typical user who might come to your site. You may have several of these, each representing a key audience group.

Creating a persona:
  • Allows a user’s daily life to be envisioned, and from that how your website, products or services would fit into it
  • Can help avoid making assumptions about the user
  • Keeps the focus of the website on the user

User Journey Mapping

In a way the mapping joins the information about the user with the goals of your organization. It is envisioning how the user is going to go from the page they land on to taking the call-to-action you are looking for.

Creating the journey map:
  • Shows what the flow on the site needs to be
  • Can reveal what isn't working on a site and why
  • Is a quick process that can help avoid missteps
  • Is a quick process that can help avoid missteps

Information Architecture

What does the website need in order to accomplish the “Trail of Breadcrumbs” leading from the user’s landing page to a call-to-action?

The information architecture includes decisions on:
  • What form the content hierarchy is going to take
  • What is the key messaging and its tone
  • What features and functions are needed on the website
The information architecture is essentially organizing the website into a structure that is easily navigable and intuitive.