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. 

Website DesignThis is Part 1 of a three-part article series about how to plan your website or blog.

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

If so, one of the many decisions you have to make is if you should build this website yourself, or get someone else to help build the site for you.

Both choices have pros and cons. Whatever choice you select will depend on a number of factors like:

  • Marketing budget
  • How much time you have available
  • Your business needs and priorities
  • How soon you need your site to be up and running
  • Your technical skills
  • Your level of commitment to manage the project
  • etc …

If you have a small budget and you want to save money, you could opt to create your website yourself, but it goes without saying that you will then need to spend some time learning how to put your site 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 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

A Basic Guide To Website Planning

Whether you decide to build a website yourself or get it built by someone else, the first crucial step is to get some good website planning done. In this blog post, we explain why planning your small business website is important and what to do before you spend your money getting a web site.

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

Website planning is considered by many web strategists as being the most important part of the whole process of getting a website built. Taking time to plan your website at the beginning helps to avoid costly mistakes later and can help create a better end product.

In this article, we provide a comprehensive primer for non-technical users designed to help you better understand the website planning process. We will also cover what to do and what not to do when planning a website or blog, and give you tips on how to talk to your web developer to make sure that you end up with a great website that you will truly be happy with.

Important

Important: Before even thinking of setting up a website or registering a domain for your digital business, it’s absolutely important that you first research your market.

Building a successful online business presence requires more than just getting a professional web site built. It also requires in addition to many other things, a commitment to develop and successfully implement an ongoing web marketing strategy.

The Site Planning Process Explained

So … you need an online presence.

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

Before doing anything else, study the flowchart below, and let’s work through the information in this section together.

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

A Money-Saving Guide To Website Planning For Business Owners

(click here to view a larger-sized image)

To make this process easy to follow, you may want to download and print the Website Planning Chart shown in the above process chart.

Once you have downloaded and printed out the website planning flowchart, grab a few sheets of paper and a pen, or whatever you use to take notes, so you can jot down your thoughts and ideas as we walk you through the process. Also, make sure to shut out all distractions over the next 15-45 minutes.

Step 1 – Your Goals

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

Come up with answers to these questions:

  • What kind of website do you want to build? Will it be a corporate website, a portfolio site, a sales blog, or some other kind of site?
  • What do I expect the site to help me achieve?

For example, your goal could be to:

  • Sell products or services online – you will want to build an e-commerce site. Depending on your needs, this could require purchasing or installing an SSL certificate to create a secure site (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), the addition of a membership site exclusively for registered users, etc.
  • Build a list of subscribers – you might need a simple site built with a “squeeze” page (landing page) or a direct sales letter where all online traffic gets directed towards,
  • Have a portfolio site that will help build credibility and trust for your brand or organization, post news, announcements, or 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 an existing website to better market your services, 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 website to help you achieve on your Website Planning worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are recording this process.

Once your goals have been written down, go through the list and select the goal that is most important to you.

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

Now, return to your list and repeat this process to find at least two more goals and record these in your planning sheet as “Goal 2” and “Goal 3“.

Important

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

But, what if you already can’t manage?

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

Your website planning process is an integral aspect of your business marketing planning processes. It’s important, therefore, that you continually refer to your business marketing plan to make sure that you 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:

After identifying at least 1-3 goals and written these down in your planning chart, go back to “Goal 1” and ask yourself this question: “how am I going to measure this goal?”

In other words, how are you going to quantify and review your results? How will you know if your site is helping you achieve your business goals?

For example, your website’s goal could be to help you get a specific target amount of leads every week through your site’s contact form, or getting “X” amount of new members per campaign, etc …

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

Tip

Note: It’s also important to keep your goals as flexible as possible at this stage, so you can readjust these once more information is gathered from your site from your site users.

Step 2 – Your Web Site Name

After you have clearly identified your website’s goals, the next step is to come up with an appropriate name for your web site.

This is an important part of the website planning process, so take your time and 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 the obvious (i.e. your company name), especially if your business name isn’t something that immediately brings up your products or services to mind. Remember, most online users will probably have never heard of you.

Put yourself in the shoes of an online customer. 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 the name, but it’s best to avoid being “too creative”. the same can be said about choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. You can have a fun or quirky website name, but it’s best to avoid anything that could be made to 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 competitors, especially sites that occupy the search results that you would like to show up in.

For example, if you are thinking of starting a blog related to food, doing a quick online search for “cooking blog” reveals some ear-catching site names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, “A Chef’s Daughter”, “The Rambling Spoon” and more …

Researching name ideas for your web site

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

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

After reducing the list down to the most likely contenders, repeat the same process as above to create a description, tagline or slogan for your site.

Make your description concise and inform the reader with as few words as possible what the web site is all about. For example, in one of the cooking sites 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 website’s name and description.

After completing 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 this business blog should have its own domain name, then register a new domain name for your site.

There are different strategies you can use to register domains names for your web site. For example, you can register keyword-rich domain names (i.e. domains containing the keyword phrase that you want to rank highly for in search engines), expired domain names (domains that the previous owners have decided not to renew and that can be registered again, different top level domain names and domain name extensions, etc.)

Practical Tip

Tip: Subscribe to this site to learn more about cost-effective strategies on registering domains and tips on how to develop and implement a successful digital marketing strategy.

Step 3 – Managing Your Technology

Once you have settled on a name and description for your web site, the next step is to have a clear plan outlining how to manage the technology that will host, support and drive your web marketing vehicle.

We highly recommend choosing WordPress.

WordPress

(Build your site with WordPress)

WordPress is not only a robust web-building platform, but it is also easy-to-manage and great for non-technical users.

WordPress is also the world’s most popular CMS platform, and, as you can see from the screenshot below, WordPress powers almost 50% of the world’s CMS-driven websites.

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

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

A WordPress-based website or blog is ideal for publishing content and communicating with visitors and potential customers.

A website or blog created with WordPress lets you better interact 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. In fact, no coding is required to publish content on a WordPress site, and managing tasks like backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.

In fact, many businesses no longer use traditional websites built using traditional website building technologies. More websites are now being powered with “blogging” software like WordPress, which provides businesses and their users with all of the features 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 “web coding” languages such as HTML, then we recommend that you consider building your website or blog using WordPress.

Hosting & 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 you plan to outsource your web site management to others, or manage your own website.

Web Site Hosting & Web Management

(Hosting & Managing Your Web Site)

Tip

We use and recommend WordPress for many website needs, and we also provide a lot more detailed information about WordPress and information on areas like domain name registration, choosing a good webhost and website management in other sections on this site.

If you need more help or advice choosing your technology platform, feel free to contact us for assistance.

Step 4 – Define Your Target Audience

After you have the basics of your site figured out, then it’s time to define who your website’s target audience will be.

Key information about your web site’s target audience should include the following:

  • Demographics
  • Needs and wants
  • What problems users have, or will experience in the future
  • How prefer to consume information
  • How they see themselves
  • What they might expect from you or your site

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

To work through this process, begin by asking important questions, like:

  • Who will your site’s content be directed to?
  • What kind of information will visitors be looking for on your website or blog?
  • What problems are your users going to face that your business will help them solve online? What specific solutions are people searching online for these problems?
  • Are your ideal users technology-savvy? How will your users consume information? Will they prefer videos to images and text? Will they need downloadable content (e.g. price lists, schedules, timetables)? Do you need to create visual, audio or multimedia content regularly in order to keep your site users engaged?
  • Where are they located? Can geographic location and factors like age, relationship status or income level impact the success of your business? If so, what segments of the population will your site be marketing to and how will you find these demographics online?
  • How does your audience see themselves? Who does your audience interact online with? What magazines and publications are they reading? What else do they buy, or consume online?
  • What will your visitors 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 online for free?

Having the ability to define your website’s 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 in developing your website, and ensure that you get a better result in the end.

Practical Tip

  • If you don’t have access to accurate research information about your target audience, just start with a “best guess” based on your experience and whatever research or information you can get access to.
  • Try not to narrow things 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, avoid trying to make your website 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 see when we continue exploring the website planning process in another post.

The Website Planning Process: A Cost-Saving Primer For Business Owners

(Source: Pixabay)

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This is the end of Part 1

To continue reading this article, click here:

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the owner of WPCompendium.org and the author of The WordPress User Manual. 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.