As Atomic’s business developer, I’m often the first guy clients talk about revamping their websites. You might think we start by brainstorming cool design ideas and interactive features. Our conversations are actually a lot more straightforward than that, though—but that doesn’t mean they’re not important.

Creating a new website is a little reading like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Remember those? You start with a mission. And every few pages, you make a choice that decides where the story takes you next. Before you know it, you’re fighting off mutant spider ants, space vampires, and killer slime. Make one wrong move and you’re in for a sure death. But play your cards right and you’ll live to tell an unbelievable tale (unless you get turned into a grasshopper, that is).

While CYOA missteps end with you getting eaten alive by sand dragons or abandoned in outer space, bad calls in web design can lead your site’s visitors to pretty bleak fates, too: unsure where to look for information, and lost in an abyss of subpages and links.

I’ll go ahead and spoil that story’s ending: After one failed mission, they probably won’t return.

Okay, maybe designing a new website isn’t quite a real-life version of Prisoner of the Ant People. But the choices you make at the beginning of the redesign process really do affect your end product—and whether user experience efforts fail or succeed. So I try to go over a few key questions with clients before we get rolling. Think of me as the narrator of your web design adventure. The choices you make are up to you.

These questions will help decide your site’s fate:

• What do you want your new site to do? Sell a product? Inform users about services?

Have people fill out a contact form? Decide your site’s main goals from the get-go, and you’ll be off to a good start.

• Who are your users? A review of your current site’s analytics will help you make some important decisions about your redesign. Are most of your users browsing on mobile devices? If so, build a responsive site. What terms are people using to find your business? Use those keywords in your copy. Understanding your audience’s needs will help you give them the best experience possible.

• How will you market your site? If nobody knows your site’s out there, it doesn’t matter how much great, user-friendly content you’ve got. You might as well await the lethal sting of a giant scorpion. Do you want to issue a digital press release or make use of other SEM strategies? How will you continue to promote your site once it’s live? We’ll plan your site with your chosen techniques in mind.

• Who will maintain your site internally? Launching your site doesn’t mean the mission’s over—far from it. Designate someone who can upload blog content, news releases, and updated company information regularly. Otherwise, you risk misinformation and broken-link black holes. Content management systems like WordPress are easy even if you don’t know code, but may require a little training at first.

A good user experience means more clicks, leads, and business for our clients. That’s why we ask customers these questions before getting started on a big project—and again during research and planning phases. The answers clients give help guide the layout, design, and information architecture of every website we create.

And when you consider that the alternatives include getting turned into bacon or becoming collateral damage in an interplanetary war, we think that’s a pretty important job.

If this doesn’t make you want to dust of your old CYOA books, I don’t know what will. (All plot references are real, by the way.) And if you want to avoid endings like these, talk to Atomic. We’ll help you guarantee mission success.


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