Website Planning Process – Part 1

Learn what to do before getting a business website or blog built and includes a printable/downloadable version of the Website Planning Process chart. 

Web DevelopmentThis is Part One of a 3-part article series designed to help you understand the website planning process.

Are you considering the idea of taking your small business online?

If so, one of the many decisions you have to make is whether or not to build this web site yourself, or get someone else to help create the website for you.

Both options have pros and cons. Whatever choice you select will depend on a number of factors such as:

  • Your financial situation
  • Time
  • Your business needs and priorities
  • Level of urgency
  • Your technical skills
  • Your level of commitment to supervise and manage the project
  • and so on …

If your budget is limited and you want to save money, you could opt to build your website yourself, but it goes without saying that you will then need to spend time learning how to put everything together.

Useful Tip

Before planning your website you need to plan your digital business and ask questions about the capabilities of your business to manage and grow a digital presence.

To help small businesses plan an effective digital presence, we have published an e-book called “The Small Business Digital Manager.”

‘The Small Business Digital Manager’ looks at why most small businesses end up with an unmanageable web presence almost as soon as they take their business online and why this leads to poor results, and shows you how to be in control of your digital business processes and get better results online using a systematic and doable approach.

In addition to the book, we have also developed a comprehensive online course that will help you implement a practical and effective digital plan for your business.

For more details, go here: The Small Business Digital Manager – How To Get Better Results Online

The Website Planning Process

Whether you choose to build a website yourself or get it built by someone else, the first important step is to do some website planning. In this blog post, we explain the importance of planning your web site and how to save money getting a web site built for your small business.

How To Plan Your Website - A Practical Primer For Business Owners

Website planning is considered by many web business experts as being the most important step in the process of getting a website for your business. Careful planning at the beginning can help you avoid costly mistakes later and create a better end product.

In this article, we provide a comprehensive practical guide for business owners to help you better understand the process of planning your website. We will also cover the do’s and don’ts of planning a business website or blog, and give you tips on how to brief your web designer to make sure that you get a website that will deliver you the kind of results you want.

Important

Important: Before even thinking of setting up a website or registering a domain name for your website, it is absolutely vital that you first do a little market research.

Building a successful presence online requires more than just having a professional web site built. It requires amongst lots of other things, a commitment to developing and implementing an ongoing website marketing strategy.

The Website Planning Process Explained

So … you want an online presence.

Let’s start, then, by trying to gain a better understanding of the website planning process.

Before doing anything else, take a look at the diagram below, and let’s go step-by-step through the information in this post together.

Note: To view a larger image click on the image or the link below the process chart.

A Practical Guide To Web Site Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners

(click here to view a larger-sized image)

To make the process easier to follow, we recommend downloading and printing the Website Planning Flowchart shown above.

After downloading and printing out the website planning flowchart, grab some sheets of paper and a pen, or whatever you use to take notes, so you can jot down your thoughts and ideas as we take you through the process. Also, make sure to shut out all distractions for the next 15-35 minutes.

Step 1 – Your Website Goals

Regardless of the type of site you choose to build, the first step is to define clear goals for your site and make these as specific as you can.

Try to answer the these questions:

  • What kind of web site am I planning to build? Will it be a professional services web site, an e-commerce site, a business blog, or some other kind of site?
  • What specific objectives would you like your website to help you achieve?

For example, your main goal could be to:

  • Sell products or services online – you may need an online shop. Depending on your goals, this could also require purchasing or installing an SSL certificate to create a secure website (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), adding a private product download area that only registered users can access, etc.
  • Build a list of subscribers – you may want to look at getting a simple site built with a “squeeze” page (landing page) or a lead generation form where all online visitors get sent to,
  • Have a services site that will help build credibility and trust for your brand or organization, post news, announcements, and updates, etc.
  • Get more exposure online for your existing business – you might need to build a business blog built on a separate domain, or added to an existing website to better market your services, or help grow your authority and expertise in your target market.
  • Or you may need a combination of the above or something else entirely …

Record as many goals as you can think of for your site on your worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are documenting this process.

Once your goals have been written down, go through the list and pick the goal that has overriding importance above all others.

Write this goal down on your flowchart (in “Your Website Goals” section) as “Goal 1“.

Now, go back over your list and repeat this process to find at least two more goals and record these on your process chart as “Goal 2” and “Goal 3“.

Information

You’ve probably heard the old saying “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

But, what if you already can’t manage?

Owning a website is going to to add a ton of extra things you will need to manage.

Your website planning process is a subset of your business marketing planning processes. It’s important, therefore, that you continually refer to your business marketing plan to make sure that you will have the resources and capabilities available to implement any strategies you set to help you achieve your goals.

So, with this in mind, take a moment to complete the following right now:

Once you have identified at least 1-3 goals and written these on your process chart, return to “Goal 1” and ask yourself this question: “how will I measure this goal?”

In other words, what objective criteria are you going to use to measure your website’s performance? How will you know if your site is helping you achieve your business objectives?

For example, your web site’s objective could be getting a specific number of leads to submit an enquiry each week via your site’s contact form, or getting “X” number of new list subscribers per month, etc …

Also, think about the resources and costs associated with managing the process of measuring your goals. If you need to, revise your business plan to accommodate your findings.

Practical Tip

Note: Keep your goals as flexible as possible at this stage, so you can readjust these as more data is gathered on your site from your site users.

Step 2 – Name Your Site

After you have clearly identified your goals, the next step is to name your web site.

This is another important step in the website planning process, so take your time and think carefully about what you are going to name your site.

Brainstorm ideas with others. Contact a few customers (or potential customers if you haven’t launched your business yet) and get their input.

Try to think beyond just the name of your company, especially if the name isn’t something that immediately brings up your products or services to mind. Remember, most online users have probably never heard about you.

Put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes. Who would be searching online for the very thing you sell? What would they be typing into a search engine or browser to find you? Once you know the answer, try to come up with a name that would entice your potential clients.

Note: You can be creative and clever with your name, but it’s best to avoid being “too creative”. This also goes for choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. It can be a fun or quirky site name, but it’s best to avoid names that may sound offensive (and definitely stay away from trademarked or registered names or phrases – you’ll just be inviting trouble!)

If you go online, you can quickly find out what other companies in your industry or niche have named their sites. Study your competition, especially sites that occupy the search results that you would like your site to come up in.

For example, if you are planning to start a food blog, doing a quick online search for “cooking blog” reveals some great site names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, ”Shockingly Delicious”, “The Rambling Spoon” and more …

Research name ideas for your website or blog

(Researching ideas for your website or blog’s name)

So … now is the time to get inspired. Make a big list of potential names and then start narrowing the list down.

After reducing the list down to the best choices, repeat the same process as above to craft a description, tagline or unique value proposition for your site.

Make your description concise and inform the reader in as few words as possible what your web site is all about. For example, in one of the food blogs we came across while searching online, the site’s description was “Fast, Fresh, and Simple Recipes Easy Enough for Tonight’s dinner.”

Including keywords in your website’s name and description can also be useful.

Once you have completed this step, the next step is to look at your domain name. If you plan to add a blog to your existing web site and decide that your business blog should be its own entity, then by all means register a new domain name for your site.

There are different strategies you can use to register domains for your site. For example, you can register keyword-rich domain names (i.e. domains that include the keyword that you want to rank highly for in the search engines), expired domain names (domain names that the previous owner has decided not to renew and are now available to be registered once more, different top level domains and domain name extensions, etc.)

Tip

Tip: Subscribe to our site for practical strategies on registering domains and tips on developing and implementing a successful web marketing strategy.

Step 3 – Manage Your Website’s Technology

Once you have chosen a name and description for your site, the next step is to come up with a clear plan specifying how to manage the technology that will host, support and drive your web marketing vehicle.

We strongly recommend building your website with WordPress.

Build your website or blog with the WordPress Content Management System

(WordPress)

WordPress is not only a robust and secure platform to build a website with, but it is also easy-to-manage and great for non-technical users.

WordPress is also the world’s leading web content management system, and, as you can see below, WordPress powers almost 50% of the world’s CMS-driven websites.

WordPress is the world's most popular Content Management System (CMS)

(WordPress - the world’s most widely used Content Management System (CMS))

A WordPress-driven website or blog provides an ideal online technology platform for publishing content and communicating with existing and potential customers.

A website or blog powered by the WordPress platform lets you better interact with site visitors and makes things like posting content, special offers, promotions, news and announcements about your services, company or industry very easy, especially if you have little to no technical web skills. No coding is, in fact, required to publish content on a WordPress site, and managing essential features like data backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.

Many large companies, small to medium businesses, institutions, organizations and well-known brands, in fact, no longer use a traditional website built using traditional website building applications. More websites around the world are now being powered using technologies like WordPress, which provides businesses and their users with all of the features and capabilities of regular websites.

If you want to have control of your business online and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn technical “web coding” languages such as HTML, then we recommend that you consider using a WordPress-powered business website or blog.

Hosting And Managing Your Site

In addition to using WordPress to drive your site, you should also plan where you are going to host your website, and whether to hire professionals to manage your web site, or manage the website or blog yourself.

Hosting & Web Management

(Hosting & Managing Your Website)

Tip

We use and recommend WordPress for most website uses, and we provide a lot more information about the benefits of using WordPress and tips on areas like how to register domain names, webhosting and website management in other posts on this site.

If you need more help or advice choosing a technology platform for your website, don’t hesitate to contact us for assistance.

Step 4 – Defining Your Target Audience

After you have the basics of your site worked out, then the next step is to define who your website’s target audience is.

Key information about your target audience should include the following:

  • Audience demographics
  • Needs and wants
  • What kind of problems your audience is experiencing, or will face in the future
  • How they like to consume information
  • How they generally tend to view themselves
  • What they may expect from you and your site

It’s important to spend time creating as accurate a profile of your ideal users as possible. Try to picture the ideal person that you will be communicating directly with and presenting your content to.

Begin this process by asking questions, like the following:

  • Who is your ideal visitor for your site?
  • What kind of content will visitors look for on your web site?
  • What challenges are people experiencing that your website can help to solve online? What types of solutions are people searching online for similar problems?
  • Are they technology-savvy? How will your visitors consume digital information? Will they prefer video to visual content like images or graphics and text? Will they need downloadable content (e.g. price lists, schedules, timetables)? Do you need to create visual, audio or multimedia content often in order to keep your audience engaged?
  • Where do they live? Can geographic location and factors like occupation, relationship status or gender affect the success of your website? If so, what segments of the population will your website be marketing to and how will you find these demographics online?
  • How do your visitors see themselves? Who do your visitors engage online with? What videos are they downloading? What else do they buy, or consume online?
  • What does your target audience expect from your site? What kind of information are you willing to provide online for free or for a fee? What kind of information will you not be providing to them for free?

Being able to define your website’s key target audience is an important step in the website planning process and it will help you communicate better with your web developer and everyone else assisting you with your website, which will then ensure that you get a website that will deliver you the kind of results you want.

Practical Tip

  • If you don’t have access to accurate information about your target audience, just start with your “best guess” based on your experience and research.
  • Try not to narrow your scope too much. You could end up investing too much time pursuing a niche that is just too small, or an online opportunity that may not be worth pursuing.
  • Create a list of all the things you would like your website to be able to do for your business and for your customers. This could include things such as having restricted areas where customers can view their order details and resellers or affiliates can view or download private or confidential information, add a directory, forum, customer support helpdesk, etc.
  • Educate yourself about any additional functionalities that your website will need to provide your business with better website administration, more efficient website management, improved web security, etc. and list these as well. This could include managed webhostingautomatic backups, brute-force attack prevention, and more.
  • Unless you plan to build a portal website and have the resources to do so, avoid trying to make your site appeal to too broad an audience, or you’ll just end up creating a ton of extra work for yourself when it comes to developing and implementing an effective content strategy for your website, as you will learn when we continue exploring the website planning process in another post.

How To Plan Your Small Business Website: A Cost-Saving Blueprint For Business Owners

(Source: Pixabay)

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This is the end of Part 1

To keep reading this article, click on the link below:

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and the author of The Small Business Digital Manager. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE tutorials that show you how to use WordPress to grow your business online with no coding skills required! Get our FREE "101+ WordPress Tips, Tricks & Hacks For Non-Techies" e-course with loads of useful WordPress tips!

Originally published as Website Planning Process – Part 1.