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 1 of a 3-part article series about the website planning process.

Are you considering the idea of getting a website for your business?

One of the many decisions you need to make is if you should build your site yourself, or get someone to build your site.

Both choices have pros and cons. Whatever choice you pick will depend on many factors such as:

  • Budget
  • Time
  • Your business needs and priorities
  • How urgently you need your site to be up and running
  • Your technical skills
  • Your level of commitment to manage and complete the project
  • and so on …

If you have a small budget and you want to save money, you could decide to develop the website yourself, but it goes without saying that you will then need to invest time figuring out how to put it all together.

Practical 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 a 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 decide to build a website yourself or get someone else to build it for you, the first crucial step is to get some website planning done. In this blog post, we explain why better web site planning helps your business and how to save money getting a website.

The Web Site Planning Process: A Cost-Saving Guide For Business Owners

Planning your website or blog is regarded by many online marketing experts to be the most important aspect in building a successful website. Careful planning at the beginning helps to prevent costly mistakes later and results in a better end end product.

Below, we have compiled a comprehensive blueprint for business owners aimed at helping you better understand your website planning process. We will also cover what to do and what not to do when planning a website, and give you tips on how to talk to your web developer to ensure that you end up with a great website that you will truly be happy with.

Useful Information

Important: before you even think of setting up a website or registering a domain for your site, it’s absolutely important that you first invest a little time rethinking your marketing strategy.

Building a successful online business presence requires more than just getting a professional website set up. It also requires amongst lots of other things, a commitment to developing and implementing an ongoing web marketing strategy.

The Site Planning Process Made Simple

So … you want a website.

Let’s start, then, with an overview of the website planning process.

Study the chart below, and let’s work through the information in this post together.

Note: Click on the image or the link below the image to enlarge the image.

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

(click here to enlarge image)

To make the process easier to follow, we recommend that you download and print the Website Planning Process Flowchart below.

After downloading and printing out the website planning flowchart, grab a few sheets of paper and a pen, or whatever you takes notes on, so you can jot down your thoughts and ideas as we take you through the process. Also, make sure to shut out all distractions over the next 25-60 minutes.

Step 1 – Goals

Regardless of the kind of website you plan to build, the first step is to define one or more clear goals for your web site and make these as specific as you can.

Come up with answers to the following questions:

  • What kind of website do I want to build? Will it be a corporate website, e-commerce site, a sales blog, or some other kind of website?
  • What specific objectives do I expect my site to help me achieve?

For example, your main goal could be to:

  • Sell products or services online – you will need to build an online shop. Depending on your goals, this could even include purchasing or installing an SSL certificate to create a secure website (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), adding a private download area exclusively for registered users, 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 of your traffic gets directed towards,
  • Have a services site that will help build credibility and trust for your brand or professional services, post news, announcements, and information about company events, etc.
  • Get more exposure online for your existing business – you might want to look at getting a blog built on a separate domain, or added to your existing website to interact with users and keep customers informed about your latest product updates, or help establish your authority and expertise in your target market.
  • Or you may need a combination of the above or something else entirely …

Record whatever it is that you want your site to help you achieve on your Website Planning 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 choose the goal that has overriding importance above all others.

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

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

Information

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

But, what if you already can’t manage?

Owning a website is going to pile on a ton of extra responsibilities on your plate.

Your website planning process is a subset of your business marketing planning process. It’s important, therefore, that you continually refer to your 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, let’s do the following right now:

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

In other words, what metrics are you going to use to evaluate your web site’s performance? How will you know if your website is helping your business achieve your goals?

For example, your web site’s objective could be getting a certain number of leads to submit a new inquiry each week using your site’s contact form, or signing up “X” amount of 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 feedback is collected from your website from site users.

Step 2 – Naming Your Site

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

This is another important part of the website planning process, so take your time to think carefully about coming up with a good name for your site.

Brainstorm ideas with others. Call 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 your business name isn’t something that immediately brings up your products or services to mind. Remember, most online users have never heard of 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 this 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 clever”. This also goes for choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. You can have a fun or quirky site name, but it’s best to avoid web site names that may sound offensive (and definitely stay away from trademarked or registered names or phrases – you’ll just be asking for trouble!)

Go online and do a little research to find out what other companies in your industry or niche are naming their sites. Study your competitors, especially those who occupy the search results that you would like to appear in.

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

Research ideas for the name of your website or blog

(Researching name ideas for your site)

So … this is where you can get inspired. Make a huge list of possible names and then begin narrowing this list down.

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

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

Include keywords in your site’s name and description.

Once you have completed this step, it’s time to look at your domain name. If you plan to add a blog to your existing website and decide that your 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 names for your site. For example, you can register keyword-rich domain names (i.e. domains that contain the keyword phrase you want to rank for in search engines), expired domain names (domains that the previous owner has decided not to renew and that can be registered once more, other top level domains and domain name extensions, etc.)

Practical Tip

Tip: Subscribe to our site to learn more about cost-effective strategies on registering domains and tips on how to develop and implement your website marketing strategy.

Step 3 – Manage Your Site’s Technology

After choosing a name and description for your site, the next step is to develop a clear plan for managing the technology that will host, support and help drive your web marketing vehicle.

We strongly recommend choosing WordPress.

WordPress

(Build your website with the WordPress Content Management System)

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 content management system (CMS), and, as you can see below, WordPress powers over 40% of the world’s CMS-driven websites.

WordPress - the world's most popular Content Management System

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

A WordPress-powered website or blog is ideal for publishing your content and communicating your business information to users and potential clients.

A website or blog built using the WP CMS platform allows you to better engage with online users and makes things like posting content, special offers, promotions, news and announcements about your services, company or industry very easy, even 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 backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.

In fact, many businesses no longer use a static website built using static website building technologies. More websites around the world are now being powered by technologies like WordPress, which provides businesses and their users with all of the functionality and capabilities of a regular website.

If you want to have better management and control of your business online and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn technical “web programming” languages such as HTML, then you should consider building your website or blog with WordPress.

Hosting And Managing Your Site

As well as choosing to build your site with the WordPress web publishing software, you should also decide how you are going to host your site, and if to hire someone else to manage your web presence, or manage your own web site.

Web Hosting & Web Site Management

(Website Hosting And Website Management)

Useful Tip

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

If you would like more help with this step, please contact us for assistance.

Step 4 – Your Audience

Once you have worked through the initial planning steps discussed so far, then the next step is to define who will be your website’s target audience.

Key information about your site’s target audience includes the following:

  • Demographics
  • Needs and wants
  • What kind of problems your audience faces, or will have in the future
  • How prefer to consume information
  • How they view themselves
  • What they expect from you or your business

It’s vitally important that you try and create as accurate a profile of your ideal audience 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 lots of questions, such as:

  • Who is your ideal visitor for your website or blog?
  • What will users look for on your website?
  • What difficulties are your users going to experience that your website will help to solve online? What specific solutions are people searching online for these problems?
  • Are your visitors technology-savvy? How does your target audience consume information? Does your audience 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 content like videos, audios or multimedia presentations to engage your visitors?
  • Where do they live? Will geography, or factors like age, religion or income level play a significant role in the success of your business? If so, what segments of the population will your web site be marketing to and how will you find and target these demographics online?
  • How does your target audience see themselves? Who do your visitors typically form online relationships with? What magazines and publications do they read? What else do they buy, or consume online?
  • What do your target users expect from your site? What kind of information are you willing to provide online for free or for a fee? What kind of information are you unwilling to provide to them for free?

Having the ability to define your site’s key target users 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 great website that you will truly be happy to own.

Tip

  • If you don’t have access to accurate market research data about your target audience, just start with your “best guess” based on your experience and whatever research you have done.
  • Don’t limit your criteria too much. You could be going after a niche that is just too small, or an online opportunity that may not be viable.
  • 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, don’t try to make your website or blog be “everything to everyone”, or you’ll just end up creating a ton of extra work for yourself when it comes to populating your website with content, as you will learn when we continue exploring the website planning process in another section.

A Money-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners

(Source: Pixabay)

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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.