This is Part 1 of a three-part series of articles about how to plan your website or blog.
Are you thinking about starting a web site for your business?
If so, one of the many decisions you need to make is if you should build the website yourself, or get someone to help build your web site.
Both options have pros and cons. Whatever choice you decide will depend on a number of things like:
- Marketing budget
- How much time you have available
- Your needs and priorities
- How urgently you need your website to be up and running
- Your skill level
- Your level of commitment to manage and complete the project
- And many other factors …
If your budget is limited and you want to save money, you could decide to build the site yourself, but it goes without saying that you will need to spend time learning how to put it all together.
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
- How To Plan Your Web Site - A Cost-Saving Blueprint For Non-Technical Business Owners
How To Plan Your Web Site - A Cost-Saving Blueprint For Non-Technical Business Owners
Whether you choose 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 better web site planning helps your business and what to do before you build a website.
Planning your website is regarded by many web strategists to be the most important step of the whole process of getting a website for your business. Taking time to plan your web site upfront can help you prevent costly errors later and create a better end product.
Below, we have compiled a comprehensive guide for non-technical users aimed at helping you better understand the 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 designer to make sure that you get a great website that you will truly be happy with.
Important: Before even thinking of setting up a website or registering a domain for your digital business, it’s absolutely vital that you first invest a little time researching your market.
Developing a successful online business presence requires more than just getting a professional website set up. It also requires other things, a commitment to developing and implementing an ongoing online marketing strategy.
The Website Planning Process Explained
So … you need a website.
Let’s start, then, with an overview of the website planning process.
Before doing anything else, study the chart below, and let’s work step-by-step through the information in this post together.
Note: Click on the image or the link below the image to enlarge the diagram.
To make the process easy to follow, you will want to download and print the Website Planning Process Chart shown in the above flowchart.
Once you have downloaded and printed out the website planning process chart, 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 that you will not have any distractions for the next 30-45 minutes.
Step 1 – Your Website Goals
Regardless of the kind of website you decide to build, the first step is to define clear goals for your site and make these goals as specific as you can.
Ask the following:
- What kind of web site do you want to build? Is it a business web site, an e-commerce site, a personal blog, or some other kind of website?
- What specific objectives would I like my website to help me achieve?
For example, your main goal could be to:
- Sell products or services online – you may want to build an online web store. Depending on your goals, this could also include purchasing or installing an SSL certificate to create a secure site (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), adding a membership area exclusively for your customers, etc.
- Capture new leads – you might want a simple site built with a “squeeze” page (landing page) or a lead generation form where all of your online traffic gets directed towards,
- Have a services site that will help build credibility and trust for your brand or professional services, post news, announcements, or information about company events, etc.
- Get more exposure online for your existing business – you may need to build a business blog built on a separate domain, or added to your existing website to provide tips or training information to existing and potential customers, or help grow your authority and expertise in your specific niche.
- Or you may need a combination of the above or something else entirely …
Record whatever goals you want your site to help you achieve on your worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are recording this process.
After you have written your list, go through your list and choose the goal that has overriding importance above all others.
Write this goal down in your flowchart (in “Your Website Goals” section) as “Goal 1“.
Now, review your list and repeat this process to find at least two more goals and record these in your process chart 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?
Building 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 processes. It’s important, therefore, that you continually refer to your business marketing plan to make sure that you have the resources and capabilities 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:
After picking at least 1-3 goals and written these on your planning sheet, return to “Goal 1” and ask yourself this question: “how will I 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 your business achieve your goals?
For example, your web site’s goal could be to help you get a certain number of leads to submit a new inquiry each week through the contact form on your website, or signing up “X” amount of opt-in subscribers per marketing 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.
Note: It’s also important to keep your goals as flexible as possible at this stage, so you can re-evaluate these as more data is collected from users.
Step 2 – Name Your Web Site
Once you have clearly identified your goals, the next step is to name your site.
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 your ideas or mastermind 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 the obvious (i.e. your business name), 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 your ideal customer’s shoes. Who would be looking online for the very product or service 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 customers.
Note: You can be creative and clever with your name, but it’s best to avoid being “too clever”. This also can be said about choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. It can be a fun or quirky name, but it’s best to avoid web site names that could be made to 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 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 blog related to cooking, doing a quick search online for “cooking blog” reveals some great blog names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, “A Chef’s Daughter”, ”Worth The Whisk” and more …
(Research name ideas for your site)
So … this is the step where you can get inspired. Make a huge list of names and then begin narrowing these down.
After narrowing the list down to the best candidates, repeat the same process as above to create a description, tagline or unique value proposition for your website.
Your description should be concise and inform the reader in as few words as possible what your web site 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.
After completing this step, it’s time to look at your domain name. If you plan to add a blog to your existing site and decide that your business blog should have its own domain name, 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 web site. For example, you can register keyword-rich domain names (i.e. domains that include the keyword phrase you want to rank highly for in the search engines), expired domain names (domains that the previous owners have decided not to renew and that can be registered once more, different top level domain names and domain name extensions, etc.)
Tip: Subscribe to our site to learn more about cost-effective strategies on registering domains and tips on how to develop your web marketing strategy.
Step 3 – Manage Your Website’s Technology
Once you have decided on a name and description for your web site, the next step is to develop a clear plan outlining how you are going to manage the technology that will host, support and help you power your online marketing vehicle.
We recommend building your website with WordPress.
(Use the WordPress CMS to build your website)
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 CMS platform, and, as you can see from the screenshot below, WordPress powers almost 50% of the world’s CMS-driven websites.
(WordPress - the world’s most popular Content Management System (CMS))
A WordPress-powered website is ideal for publishing content and communicating information about your business to your users and potential customers.
A business website or blog driven by WordPress allows you to interact better 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 tasks 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 use their websites using static website building tools. More websites 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 have better management and control of your own web marketing 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.
Website Hosting And Web Site Management
As well as using WordPress to power your site, you should also plan where you are going to host your site, and whether to let professionals manage your web presence, or manage the site yourself.
(Hosting And Website Management)
We use and recommend WordPress for most business applications, and we also provide more detailed information about the benefits of using WordPress and tips on areas like domain name registration, what to look for in a good host and website management in other articles on this site.
If you need more help or advice with this step, don’t hesitate to contact us for assistance.
Step 4 – Define Your Target Audience
After you have the basics of your site worked out, then the next step is to define who your target audience is.
Key information about your target audience includes:
- Audience demographics
- What your audience needs and wants
- What problems your target audience is experiencing, or will experience in the future
- How prefer to consume information
- How they generally tend to see themselves
- What they might expect from you or your business
It’s essential that you spend time creating as accurate a profile of your target site users as possible. Try to picture the actual person that you will be communicating directly with and presenting your information to.
Begin this process by asking lots of questions, such as:
- Who are you writing to?
- What will visitors be searching for on your website or blog?
- What challenges are your visitors going to experience that your information can help them solve online? What specific solutions are people searching online for these problems?
- Is your audience technology-savvy? How does your target audience consume digital information? Does your audience prefer video to images and text? Will they need downloadable content (e.g. price lists, schedules, timetables)? Will you need to create content like videos, audios or multimedia presentations regularly in order to keep your audience engaged?
- Where are they located? Will geography, or factors like occupation, relationship status or gender play an important role in the success of your site? 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 does your audience engage online with? What videos are they downloading? What else are they buying or consuming online?
- What do they 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 will you not be providing to them for free?
Being able to define your website’s key target users is a vital 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, which will then ensure that you get a website that will truly suit your needs and budget.
- If you don’t have access to accurate information about your target audience, then start with a “best guess” based on your experience and research.
- Try not to narrow things 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 sustainable.
- 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 webhosting, automatic 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 developing and implementing an effective content strategy for your website, as you will see when we continue exploring the website planning process in another post.
This is the end of Section 1
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"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now
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