This is Part 1 of a 3-part article series about how to plan your website or blog.
Are you considering the idea of starting a website or blog for your business?
One of the many decisions you have to make is if you should build your site yourself, or get someone to create your site.
Both options have pros and cons. Whichever option you pick will depend on things like:
- Your marketing budget
- How much time you can put into the project
- Your business priorities
- How soon you need your website to be up and running
- Your level of technical skill
- 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 choose to create the site yourself, but it goes without saying that you will need to invest some time learning how to put things 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
Understanding The Website Planning Process
Whether you decide to build a website yourself or get it built by someone else, the first important step is to get some website planning done. In this blog post, we explain in simple terms the importance of website planning and what to avoid doing when planning a website.
Proper website planning is regarded by many web business experts to be the most important step of the process of getting your website for your business. Careful planning before you begin will help you prevent costly errors later and create a better end product.
In this article, we provide 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 business website, and give you tips on how to brief your website designer to ensure that you get a website that will deliver you the kind of results you want.
Important: Before setting up a website or registering a domain name for your digital business, it is highly recommended that you first do a little market research.
Building a successful business presence online requires more than just having a professional website built. It also requires in addition to many other things, a commitment to developing and implementing an ongoing website marketing strategy.
The Site Planning Process Made Simple
So … you need a web presence.
Let’s start, then, with an overview of the website planning process.
Study the flowchart below, and let’s work 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 chart.
To make the process easy to follow, we recommend downloading and printing the Website Planning Chart below.
Once you have downloaded and printed out the 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 that you will not have any distractions for the next 25-35 minutes.
Step 1 – Define Your Goals
Regardless of the type of site you are planning to build, the first step is to define a clear goal for your site and make it as specific as possible.
Try to answer the the following:
- What kind of web site do I want to build? Is it a corporate website, a portfolio site, a business blog, or some other kind of site?
- What specific objectives would I like to achieve with this site?
For example, your main goal could be to:
- Sell products or services online – you might want 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 membership area exclusively for your registered users, etc.
- Capture new leads – 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 online traffic gets directed towards,
- Have a corporate site that will help build credibility and trust for your organization or brand, post news, announcements, and updates to staff and clients, 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 an existing website to provide tips or training information to your new customers, or help assert your authority and expertise in your specific niche.
- Or you may need a combination of the above or something else entirely …
Write down as many goals and objectives as you can think of for your website on your worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are recording this process.
After your goals have been written down, go through your list and select the goal that is most important to you.
Write this goal 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 write these down in your flowchart as “Goal 2” and “Goal 3“.
You’ve probably heard the old saying “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
But, what if you already can’t manage?
Adding 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 back 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, do the following right now:
Once you have identified at least 1-3 goals and written these down 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 will you use to evaluate your site’s performance? How will you know if your site is on track to help your business achieve your objectives?
For example, your website’s goal could be to help you get a certain target amount of leads to submit a new inquiry each week via the contact form on your site, or signing up “X” amount of subscribers per marketing campaign, etc …
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 re-evaluate these once more data is gathered from your website from site visitors.
Step 2 – Website Name
After you have clearly identified your goals, the next step is to come up with an appropriate name for your site.
This is an important step in 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. Get in touch with 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 will probably have never heard about you.
Put yourself in the shoes of an online customer. Who would be searching online for the very thing your company sells? What would they be typing into a search engine or browser to find you? Once you know this, try to come up with a name that would entice your prospects.
Note: You can be creative and clever with your 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 site name, but it’s best to try and avoid website names that could be made to sound offensive (and definitely stay away from trademarked or registered names or phrases – you’ll just be inviting 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 those who occupy the search results that you would like to show up in.
For example, if you are planning to start a blog related to cooking, a quick search online for “cooking blog” reveals some catchy blog names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, “A Chef’s Daughter”, “The Rambling Spoon” and more …
(Research name ideas for your website)
So … now is the time to get inspired. Make a big list of names and then start narrowing the list down.
Once you have narrowed this list down to the most likely contenders, repeat the same process as above to craft a description, tagline or unique value proposition for your website or blog.
Make your description concise and inform the reader with as few words as possible what the website or blog is all about. For example, in one of the food 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 website’s name and description.
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 this blog should have its own domain name, then go ahead and register a new domain name for your site.
There are different strategies you can use to register domains for your web site. For example, you can register keyword-rich domain names (i.e. domains that include the keyword phrase that you want to rank for in search engines), expired domain names (domains that the previous owner has decided not to renew and that are now available for registration again, other top level domains and domain name extensions, etc.)
Tip: Subscribe to our site to learn more about useful strategies on registering domains and tips on developing your web site marketing strategy.
Step 3 – Manage Your Website’s Technology
Once you have chosen a name and description for your website, the next step is to come up with a clear plan for managing the technology that is going to host, support and help drive your online business vehicle.
We encourage you to consider getting your site built with WordPress.
(Build your website with WordPress)
WordPress is not only a robust and secure web-building platform, 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 leading CMS (Content Management System))
A WordPress website is an ideal web technology platform for publishing content and communicating with existing and potential clients.
A website or blog built using the WP 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, 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 necessary tasks like data backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.
Many large companies, small to medium businesses, educational institutions, organizations and well-known brands, in fact, no longer use a traditional website built using static website building applications. More sites around the world are now being powered using technologies like WordPress, which can provide businesses and their users with all of the functions and capabilities of a regular website.
If you would like 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 you should consider building your website or blog using WordPress.
Hosting & Site Management
In addition to using WordPress to power your site, you should also plan who is going to host your website, and whether to hire somebody else to manage your web presence, or manage your own web site.
(Hosting & Web Site Management)
We use and recommend WordPress for most website needs, and we provide a lot more detailed information about the WordPress CMS and tips on subjects like domain name registration, webhosting and website management in other blog posts on this site.
If you would like more help, don’t hesitate to contact us for assistance.
Step 4 – Your Website Audience
After you have the initial planning steps we’ve discussed above worked out, then the next step is to define who is your website’s target audience.
Key information about your target audience should include:
- Audience demographics
- What they need and want
- Any problems your target audience experiences, or will face in the future
- How prefer to consume digital information
- How they generally see themselves
- What they may expect from you or your site
It’s important to spend time creating as accurate a profile of your ideal users as you can. Try to picture the actual person that you will be communicating directly with and presenting your information to.
Begin this process by asking important questions, like the following:
- Who will your site’s content be addressed towards?
- What will visitors search for on your site?
- What difficulties are people experiencing that the content you plan to provide will help to solve online? What types of solutions are people searching online for these problems?
- Are your visitors technology-savvy? How does your audience consume digital information? Does your audience prefer video to visual content like images or graphics and text? Do they need downloadable content (e.g. price lists, schedules, timetables)? Will you need to create content like videos, audios or multimedia presentations continually to keep your site users engaged?
- Where are they located? Will 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 web site be marketing to and how will you find these demographics online?
- How does your target audience see themselves? Who do your visitors engage online with? What videos are they downloading? What else are they buying or consuming online?
- What will your audience expect from your site? What kind of information are you willing to provide online freely or for a fee? What kind of information are you unwilling to provide online for free?
Being able to accurately define your site’s 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 in developing your website, and ensure that you get a better end product.
- If you don’t have access to accurate market research data about your target audience, just start with a “best guess” based on your experience and research.
- Don’t limit 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 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 web site be “everything to everyone”, or you’ll just end up putting yourself in an untenable position when it comes to populating your site with content, as you will see when we continue exploring the website planning process in another section.
This is the end of Section 1
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