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 One of a 3-part series of articles designed to help you understand how to plan your website or blog.

Are you thinking about getting a website or blog built for your business?

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

Both options have pros and cons. Whichever choice you decide will depend on a number of factors like:

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

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

Useful 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

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

Whether you choose to build a website yourself or get it built by someone else, the first crucial step is to do some website planning. In this blog post, we explain in simple terms why better web site planning helps your business and how to save money getting a website for your business.

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

Website planning is considered by many web business experts as being one of the most important steps of building a successful business online. Taking some time to carefully plan your web site at the beginning helps to prevent costly errors later and can help create a better end product.

In this article, we provide a comprehensive blueprint for non-technical users designed to help you better understand the process of planning your website. We will also cover what to do and what not to do when planning a business website, and give you tips on how to talk to your web designer to ensure that you end up with a website that will deliver you the kind of results you expect.

Important Info

Important: before you even think of setting up a website or registering a domain name for your site, it is vitally important that you first spend a little time doing market research.

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

The Website Planning Process Simplified

So … you have decided that you want a web presence.

Let’s start, then, by understanding the website planning process.

Study the process chart below, and let’s go through the information in this section together.

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

A Basic Guide To Website Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners

(click to view larger flowchart)

To make the process easier to follow, we recommend downloading and printing the Website Planning Process Flowchart shown in the above diagram.

After downloading and printing out the flowchart, grab some paper and a pen, or whatever you takes notes on, so you can write 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 30-60 minutes.

Step 1 – Website Goals

No matter what kind of web site you decide to build, the first step is to define a clear goal for your website and make it as specific as you can.

Try to answer the the following questions:

  • What kind of website do I want to build? Will it be a corporate web site, a portfolio site, a business blog, or some other kind of website?
  • What specific objectives would you like to achieve with the website?

For example, your main goal could be to:

  • Sell products or services online – you will need to build an online shop. Depending on your plan, this could include setting up a secure website (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), the addition of a membership site exclusively for your registered users, etc.
  • Capture new leads – you may want a simple site built with a “squeeze” page (landing page) or a lead generation form where all traffic gets sent to,
  • Have a corporate site that will help build credibility and trust for your professional services or brand, post news, announcements, and information about company events, etc.
  • Get more exposure online for your existing business – you may want to look at getting a business blog built on a separate domain, or added to your existing website to better promote your services, or help establish your authority and expertise in your specific niche.
  • Or you may need a combination of the above or something else entirely …

Record all your goals on your Website Planning worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are recording this information.

After your goals have been written down, go through your list and pick the goal that has overriding importance above all others.

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

Now, go back to your list and repeat this process to find two more goals and write these down in your worksheet 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?

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 process. It’s important, therefore, that you continually refer back to your marketing plan to make sure that you have the resources and capabilities available to implement the strategies to help you achieve your goals.

So, with this in mind, let’s do the following right now:

After listing at least 1-3 goals and written these in your planning sheet, 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 site is on track to help your business achieve your goals?

For example, your web site’s goal could be to help you get a certain number of leads every week using the contact form on your website, or getting “X” amount of opt-in subscribers per month, 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.

Useful Tip

Note: Keep your goals as flexible as possible at this stage, so you can readjust these as more feedback is gathered on your website from your visitors.

Step 2 – Your Site Name

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

This is an important part of the website planning process, so take your time and think carefully about what you are going to name your site.

Brainstorm ideas 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 company name), especially if your name isn’t something that immediately brings up your products or services to mind. Remember, most online users have probably 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 this, 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 clever”. the same goes for choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. It can be a fun or quirky site name, but avoid website names that could 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 easily find out what other companies in your industry or niche have named their sites. Study your competition, especially those who occupy the search results that you would like your site to come up in.

For example, if you are thinking of starting a blog related to cooking, a quick online search for “cooking blog” reveals some memorable blog names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, “A Chef’s Daughter”, ”Worth The Whisk” and more …

Research name ideas for your site

(Researching ideas for your website’s name)

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

Once you have narrowed this list of names down to the most likely contenders, repeat the same process as above to craft a description, tagline or slogan for your website.

Your description should be 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 cooking blogs we came across while searching online, the description was “Fast, Fresh, and Simple Recipes Easy Enough for Tonight’s dinner.”

Include keywords in your web 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 site and feel that this business blog should have its own domain name, by all means register a new domain name for your site.

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

Practical Tip

Tip: Subscribe to our site for practical strategies on registering domains and tips on how to develop a successful online marketing strategy.

Step 3 – Manage Your Site’s Technology

Once you have settled on a name and description for your website, the next step is to come up with a clear plan specifying how you are going to manage the technology that is going to host, support and power your site.

We highly recommend getting your website built with WordPress.

WordPress

(Build your site with WordPress)

WordPress is not only a robust 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 most widely used content management system (CMS), and, as you can see from the screenshot below, WordPress powers over 48% of the world’s CMS-driven websites.

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

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

A WordPress-based website provides an ideal online application platform for publishing your content and communicating information about your business to your existing and potential customers.

A business website or blog created with the WordPress platform lets you engage with site visitors and makes things like posting content, special offers, promotions, news and announcements about your products, company or industry very easy, especially if you have little to no technical web skills. In fact, no coding is required to publish content on a WordPress site, and managing necessary tasks like file and data backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.

In fact, many large companies, small to medium businesses, educational institutions, organizations and well-known brands no longer choose to build their websites using static website building applications. More websites around the world are now being powered with “blogging” software like WordPress, which provides businesses and their users with all of the features and capabilities of regular websites.

If you would like to control your own web marketing and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn “web coding” languages such as HTML, then you should consider using a WordPress-powered business website or blog.

Hosting And Website Management

In addition to using to build your website with the WordPress CMS platform, you should also think about who is going to host your website, and if you plan to outsource your website or blog management to someone else, or manage everything yourself.

Hosting And Website Management

(Hosting And Managing Your Site)

Useful Tip

We use and recommend WordPress for many website needs, and we provide a lot more detailed information about the WordPress CMS and information on areas like domain name registration, webhosting and website management in other articles on this site.

If you need help or advice with this step, don’t hesitate to contact us for assistance.

Step 4 – Your Audience

Once you have worked through and completed the initial steps discussed so far, then the next step is to define who your site’s target audience is.

You will need to know key information about your web site’s target audience, such as:

  • Demographics
  • What your audience needs and wants
  • Any problems your audience faces, or will have in the future
  • How prefer to consume information
  • How they generally see themselves
  • What they can expect from you or your business

It’s very important that you try and create as accurate a profile of your target users as possible. Try to picture the ideal person that you will be communicating directly with when presenting your content to.

To work through this process, begin by asking lots of questions, such as:

  • Who is the ideal visitor for your website?
  • What will users search for on your website?
  • What difficulties are your users going to experience that your website can help them solve online? What types of solutions are people searching online for these problems?
  • Are your target users technology-savvy? How will your visitors consume digital 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 target audience?
  • Where do they live? Is geographical location or factors like education, religion or income level, important to the success of your business? If so, what segments of the population will your website be marketing to and how will you find and target these demographics online?
  • How do they see themselves? Who does your target audience interact online with? What magazines and publications are they downloading? 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?

Being able to accurately define your website’s target audience 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 in developing your website, which will then ensure that you get a better end product.

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 research.
  • Try not to narrow your scope too much. You could be going after 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 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 appeal to an audience that is just too broad, or you’ll just end up putting yourself in an untenable position when it comes to populating your website with content, as you will see when we continue exploring the website planning process in another section.

A Practical Guide To Website Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners

(Source: Pixabay)

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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.