This is Part 1 of a 3-part series of articles about how to plan your website.
Are you thinking about getting a website or blog built for your small business?
If so, one of the many decisions you need to make is whether or not to build the web site 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:
- Budget amount
- Your needs
- Level of urgency
- Your technical skills
- Your level of commitment to manage and complete the project
- etc …
If you have a small budget and you want to save money, you could opt to create the site yourself, but it goes without saying that you will need to invest time learning how to put your site together.
- 1 A Cost-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners
A Cost-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners
Whether you choose to build a website yourself or get someone else to build it for you, the first important step is to get some good planning done. In this blog post, we explain why planning your business web site is important and what to do before investing in web development.
Website planning is regarded by many web business experts to be the most important aspect of the process of getting a website for your business. Investing some time to carefully plan your site at the beginning helps to prevent costly errors later and results in a better end end product.
Below, we have compiled a comprehensive guide for non-technical users aimed at helping 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 website, and give you tips on how to talk to your web designer to make sure that you end up with a website that will perfectly meet your budget, suit your needs and deliver you the type of results you want.
Important: Before even thinking of setting up a website or registering a domain for your site, it is absolutely important that you first do a little market research.
Developing a successful presence online requires more than just having a professional website and business blog built. It requires amongst lots of other things, a commitment to developing and implementing an ongoing digital marketing strategy.
The Site Planning Process Made Simple
So … you need a web presence.
Let’s start, then, by trying to gain a better understanding of the website planning process.
Study the diagram below, and let’s work step-by-step through the information in this section together.
Note: To view a larger image click on the image or the link below the diagram.
To make this process easier to follow, we recommend downloading and printing the Website Planning Process Flowchart shown in the above process chart.
Once you have downloaded and printed out the website planning process chart, grab some sheets of paper and a pen, or whatever you use to take notes, so you can jot down your thoughts and ideas as we take you through the process. Also, make sure to shut out all distractions over the next 20-60 minutes.
Step 1 – Website Goals
No matter what type of website you are planning to build, the first step is to define one or more goals for your website and make these as specific as you can.
Try to answer the the following questions:
- What kind of website do you want to build? Is it a professional services website, an e-commerce site, a business blog, or some other kind of website?
- What specific objectives would I like to achieve with this website?
For example, your goal could be to:
- Sell products or services online – you may need to build an e-commerce site. Depending on your goals, this could even include setting up a secure website (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), the addition of a private product download area that only your customers can access, etc.
- Capture new leads – you may need a simple site built with a “squeeze” page (landing page) or a lead generation form where all of your online traffic gets directed to,
- Have a portfolio 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 your existing website to better promote your services, or help assert your authority and expertise in your specific niche.
- Or something else …
Record as many goals and objectives as you can think of for your website on your Website Planning worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are documenting this information.
After you have written your list, go through your list and pick the goal that is most important to you.
Write this goal down on your planning sheet (in “Your Website Goals” section) as “Goal 1“.
Now, review your list and repeat this process to find 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?
Owning a website is going to pile on a whole lot of extra responsibilities on your plate.
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 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, let’s do the following right now:
Once you have listed at least 1-3 goals and written these down on your planning sheet, return to “Goal 1” and ask yourself this question: “how am I going to measure this goal?”
In other words, what benchmarks are you going to use to measure your web site’s performance? How will you know if your site is on track to help you achieve your business goals?
For example, your web site’s goal could be getting a specific target amount of leads each week through your site’s contact form, or signing up “X” amount of membership sales per campaign, etc …
Also, 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 readjust these as more data is collected from users.
Step 2 – Your Site Name
After you have clearly identified your goals, the next step is to come up with an appropriate name for your site.
This is another important step in the website planning process, so take your time to think carefully about what you are going to name 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 just the name of your company, especially if the 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 your ideal customer’s shoes. Who would be searching 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, try to come up with a name that would entice your prospects.
Note: You can be creative and clever with the name, but it’s best to avoid being “too creative”. This also can be said about choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. You can have a fun or quirky website name, but avoid website names that can 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 have named their sites. Study your competitors, especially those who occupy the search results that you would like to own.
For example, if you are planning to start a blog related to cooking, a quick online search for “cooking blog” reveals some great site names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, ”Shockingly Delicious”, ”Worth The Whisk” and more …
(Researching ideas for your web site or blog’s name)
So … this is the step where you can get inspired. Make a huge list of names and then narrow your list down.
After reducing the list of names down to the best choices, repeat the same process as above to create a description, tagline or unique value proposition for your web site.
Make your description concise and inform the reader with as few words as possible what your site is all about. For example, in one of the food blogs we came across while doing research, the site description was “Fast, Fresh, and Simple Recipes Easy Enough for Tonight’s dinner.”
Include keywords in your site’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 feel that this 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 containing the key phrase you want to rank highly for in search engines), expired domain names (domains that the previous owner has decided not to renew and are now available to be registered once more, other top level domains and domain name extensions, etc.)
Tip: Subscribe to our site for useful strategies on registering domains and tips on developing and implementing your online marketing strategy.
Step 3 – Managing Your Site’s Technology
After choosing a name and description for your website, the next step is to create a clear plan to manage the technology that is going to host, support and drive your website.
We strongly encourage you to consider getting your site built with WordPress.
(Build your website or blog with the WordPress CMS)
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))
A WordPress-based website is an ideal web technology platform for publishing content and communicating with visitors and potential clients.
A business web site or blog driven by WordPress lets you engage with online users 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 file and data backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.
In fact, many businesses no longer use static websites built using static website building applications. More websites are now being powered using “blogging” software like WordPress, which provides businesses and their users with all of the functions and capabilities of a regular website.
If you want to have control of your own web marketing and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn “web development” languages such as HTML, then you should consider choosing a WordPress-powered business website or blog.
Hosting And Managing Your Web Site
As well as choosing WordPress to power your website, you should also think about how you are going to host your website, and whether to hire someone else to manage your site, or manage everything yourself.
(Hosting & Web Management)
We use and recommend WordPress for many website applications, and we also provide a lot more detailed information about the benefits of using the WordPress CMS and expert advice on areas like how to register domain names, webhosting and website management in other sections on this site.
If you need help or advice, don’t hesitate to contact us for assistance.
Step 4 – Your Website’s Target Audience
After you have worked through and completed the initial steps above, then the next step is to define who your target audience is.
Key information about your web site’s target audience includes:
- Audience demographics
- What they need and want
- What kind of problems they experience, or will experience in the future
- How they like to consume digital information
- How they generally tend to see themselves
- What they expect from you or your site
It’s vitally important that you spend time creating as accurate a profile of your target audience as you can. Try to picture the actual person that you will be communicating directly with when presenting your information to.
To work through this process, begin by asking questions, like:
- Who will your content be addressing?
- What will users be searching for on your web site?
- What problems are your users going to experience that your website or blog can help them solve online? What specific solutions are people searching online for these issues?
- Are your visitors technology-savvy? How will your site users consume digital information? Will they prefer video to images 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 regularly in order to engage your audience?
- Where do they live? Will geographic location and factors like age, religion or income level impact the success of your site? If so, what segments of the population will your website or blog be marketing to and how will you find these demographics online?
- How do your target users see themselves? Who do your target users engage online with? What music are they downloading? What else do they buy, or consume online?
- What will your audience 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 accurately define your site’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 in developing your website, and ensure that you end up with the exact type of website that you need.
If you don’t have access to accurate research information about your target audience, then start with your “best guess” based on your experience and whatever research you can manage to get done.
Also, 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 viable.
Finally, unless you plan to build a portal website and have the resources to do so, avoid trying to make your web site appeal to too broad an audience, or you’ll just end up creating a ton of extra work for yourself when it comes to populating your site with content, 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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