This is Part 1 of a 3-part article series designed to help you understand how to plan your website.
Are you considering the idea of getting a website built for your small business?
If so, one of the most important decisions you need to make is if you should build this web site yourself, or get someone to help create your website.
Both options have pros and cons. Whichever choice you pick will depend on a number of factors like:
- Your budget
- How much time you can put into this area
- Your business needs and priorities
- Level of urgency
- Your level of technical skill
- Your level of commitment to manage the project
- and so on …
If your budget is limited and you want to save money, you could opt to develop the web site yourself, but it goes without saying that you will then need to invest time learning how to put it all together.
- 1 A Basic Guide To Website Planning
A Basic Guide To Website Planning
Whether you choose to build a website yourself or get someone else to build it for you, the first important step is to plan your website. In this article, we explain in simple terms the importance of website planning and how to build a better website.
Planning your website or blog is considered by many web business experts as being one of the most important parts in the process of getting your website for your business. Investing time to carefully plan your website before you begin will help you prevent costly errors later and create a better end product.
Below, we have compiled a comprehensive blueprint for non-technical users to help you better understand the process of planning a website for your business. We will also cover the do’s and don’ts of planning a business website, and give you tips on how to brief your web developer to make sure that you get a website that will truly work for your business.
Important: Before setting up a website or registering a domain for your web site, it is highly recommended that you first invest a little time researching your market.
Building a successful digital presence requires more than getting a professional web site built. It requires amongst other things, a commitment to developing and implementing an ongoing web site marketing strategy.
The Website Planning Process Made Simple
So … you have decided that you want a web presence.
Let’s start, then, by understanding the website planning process.
Before doing anything else, study the diagram below, and let’s go step-by-step through the information in this post together.
Note: Click on the image or the link below the image to enlarge the process chart.
To make this process easy to follow, we recommend downloading and printing the Website Planning Flowchart below.
After downloading and printing out the flowchart, grab some sheets of paper and a pen, or whatever you use to take notes, so you can write down your thoughts and ideas as we walk you through the process. Also, make sure to shut out all distractions for the next 15-45 minutes.
Step 1 – Defining Your Website Goals
Regardless of the kind of website you are planning to build, the first step is to define one or more clear goals for your web site and make these goals as specific as possible.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What kind of website are you planning to build? Is it a corporate website, e-commerce site, a marketing blog, or some other kind of website?
- What do I expect to achieve with this website?
For example, your goal could be to:
- Sell products or services online – you might want to build an online shop. Depending on your goals, this could require purchasing an SSL certificate to create a secure website (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), adding a private download area exclusively for your customers, etc.
- Capture new leads – you might want to look at getting a simple site built with a “squeeze” page (landing page) or a direct sales letter where all of your traffic gets sent to,
- Have a services site that will help build credibility and trust for your brand or professional services, post news, announcements, or updates, etc.
- Get more exposure online for your existing business – you will need to build a blog built on a separate domain, or added to an existing website to better promote your services, or help establish your authority and expertise in your specific niche.
- Or something else …
List whatever goals you want your website to help you achieve on your worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are documenting this information.
Once your goals have been written down, go through your list and pick the goal that is most important to you.
Write this goal on your process chart (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 flowchart as “Goal 2” and “Goal 3“.
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?
Running a website is going to to add a ton of additional things you will need to manage.
Your website planning process is an integral aspect of your business marketing planning process. It’s important, therefore, that you continue to 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, do the following right now:
After selecting at least 1-3 goals and written these on your worksheet, return 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 web site is helping you achieve your goals?
For example, your web site’s objective could be to help you get a specific number of leads every week using your site’s contact form, or getting “X” new opt-in subscribers per quarter, 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.
Note: Keep your goals as flexible as possible at this stage, so you can adjust these as more information is collected from your website from site users.
Step 2 – Site Name
After you have clearly identified your website’s goals, the next step is to come up with an appropriate name for your website.
This is an important step in 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 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 about you.
Put yourself in the shoes of an online user. Who would be searching online for the very product or service your company sells? 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 users.
Note: You can be creative and clever with the name, but try to avoid being “too clever”. The same advice can be said about choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. You can have a fun or quirky name, but it’s best to avoid anything that could 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 competition, especially sites that occupy the search results that you would like to own.
For example, if you are planning to start a cooking blog, doing 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 name ideas for your website or blog)
So … this is where you can get inspired. Make a big list of possible names and then narrow these down.
After you have narrowed this list down to the most likely candidates, repeat the same process as above to craft a description, tagline or unique value proposition for your web site.
Your description should be concise and inform the reader with as few words as possible what the site is all about. For example, in one of the cooking sites we came across while doing research, the description was “Fast, Fresh, and Simple Recipes Easy Enough for Tonight’s dinner.”
Including keywords in your site’s name and description can also be useful.
After completing this step, the next step is to look at your domain name. If you plan to add a blog to your existing site and decide that your blog should be its own entity, by all means register a new domain name for your site.
There are different strategies you can use to register domains for your website. For example, you can register keyword-rich domain names (i.e. domains that contain 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 that can be registered once more, other top level domain names and domain name extensions, etc.)
Tip: Subscribe to this site to learn more about cost-effective strategies on registering domains and tips on how to develop a successful digital marketing strategy.
Step 3 – Managing Your Site’s Technology
After deciding on a name and description for your web site, the next step is to have a clear plan for managing the technology that will host, support and help you drive your website.
We encourage you to consider getting your website built 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 leading web content management system, and, as you can see from the screenshot below, WordPress powers almost half of the world’s CMS-driven websites.
(WordPress is the world’s most widely used CMS (Content Management System))
A WordPress-based website is ideal for publishing content and communicating your business information to visitors and potential customers.
A website or blog created with the WordPress platform lets you interact better with online users and makes things like posting content, special offers, promotions, news and announcements about your products, 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 things like data backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.
Many large companies, small to medium businesses, educational institutions, organizations and even celebrities, in fact, no longer choose to build their websites using static website building tools. More sites around the world are now being powered using technologies like WordPress, which provides businesses and their users with all of the functionality and capabilities of regular websites.
If you want to control your business online and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn technical “web coding” languages such as HTML, then you should consider using a WordPress-powered business website or blog.
Hosting And Managing Your Website
As well as choosing to build your site with the WordPress CMS platform, you should also decide who is going to host your site, and whether you plan to outsource the management of your website or blog to somebody else, or manage the site yourself.
(Hosting & Website Management)
We use and recommend WordPress for many website uses, and we also provide a lot more detailed information about the WordPress CMS and expert advice on subjects like how to register domain names, webhosting and website management in other sections on this site.
If you would like more help with this step, please contact us for assistance.
Step 4 – Define Your Audience
After you have figured out the initial planning steps discussed so far, then it’s time to define who is your site’s target audience.
Key information about your target audience includes the following:
- Their needs and wants
- What kind of problems your target audience experiences, or will have in the future
- How prefer to consume digital information
- How they see themselves
- What they might expect from you and your site
It’s essential that you spend time creating as accurate a profile of your ideal audience as possible. Try to picture the actual person that you will be communicating directly with and presenting your content to.
Begin this process by asking lots of questions, like:
- Who is the ideal visitor for your web site?
- What kind of information will users be searching for on your site?
- What problems are people experiencing that your website or blog will help to solve online? What types of solutions are people searching online for these issues?
- Is your audience technology-savvy? How does your target audience consume digital information? Does your audience prefer videos to visual content like images or graphics and text? Will they need downloadable content (e.g. price lists, schedules, timetables)? Will you need to create visual, audio or multimedia content regularly in order to engage your target audience?
- Where do they live? Can geographic location and factors like education, religion or gender impact the success of your business? If so, what segments of the population will your web site be marketing to and how will you target these demographics online?
- How does your audience see themselves? Who do they interact online with? What music are they downloading? 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 to them for free or for a fee? What kind of information are you unwilling to provide to them for free?
Being able to define your website’s target users is an important step in the website planning process and it will help you communicate better with the web developer and everyone else assisting you with your website, and ensure that you get a website that will deliver you the kind of results you want.
If you don’t have access to accurate market information about your target audience, then start with your “best guess” based on your experience and whatever research you can get your hands on.
Also, don’t narrow your criteria too much. You could be going after a niche that is just too small, or an online opportunity that may not be worth pursuing.
Conversely, unless you plan to build a portal website and have the resources to do so, don’t try to make your website or blog appeal to too broad an audience, or you’ll just end up putting yourself in an untenable position when it comes to developing and implementing an effective content strategy for your site, as you will see when we continue exploring the website planning process in another post.
This is the end of Part 1
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