This is Part 1 of a three-part article series designed to help you understand the website planning process.
Are you thinking about taking your small business online?
If so, one of the most important decisions you have to make is if you should build the website yourself, or get someone else to help build your website.
Both options have pros and cons. Whatever option you select will depend on a number of factors such as:
- Your financial situation
- How much time you can put into the project
- Your business priorities
- Level of urgency
- Your level of technical skill
- Your level of commitment to manage and complete the project
- etc …
If your budget is limited and you want to save money, you could decide to build the web site yourself, but it goes without saying that you will then need to invest some time figuring out how to put your site 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
A Money-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners
Whether you decide to build a website yourself or get someone to build it for you, the first crucial step is to get some website planning done. In this blog post, we explain why planning your business website is important and how to save money getting a web site.
Planning your website or blog is regarded by many online business strategists to be the most important part in building a successful website. Investing some time to carefully plan your website at the beginning can help you avoid costly errors later and create a better end product.
Below, you will find a comprehensive primer for non-technical users to help you better understand your website planning process. We will also cover the do’s and don’ts of planning a website or blog, and give you tips on how to brief your website designer to ensure 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 name for your site, it is absolutely vital that you first do a little market research.
Building a successful digital presence requires more than just having a professional website and business blog built. It also requires amongst lots of other things, a commitment to developing and implementing an ongoing web site marketing strategy.
The Site Planning Process Simplified
So … you have decided that you want a web presence.
Let’s start, then, with an overview of the website planning process.
Take a look at the flowchart below, and let’s work through the information on this page together.
Note: To view a larger image click on the image or the link below the flowchart.
To make this process easy to follow, we recommend downloading and printing the Website Planning Chart shown above.
Once you have downloaded and printed 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 to shut out all distractions over the next 30-45 minutes.
Step 1 – Your Website Goals
Regardless of the kind of website you want to build, the first step is to define one or more goals for your web site and make these as specific as you can.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What kind of web site do I want to build? Will it be a corporate website, an e-commerce site, a sales blog, or some other kind of website?
- What specific objectives would I like to achieve with the site?
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 also include setting up a secure site (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), the addition of a membership site exclusively for your registered users, etc.
- Build a list of subscribers – you might need a simple site built with a “squeeze” page (landing page) or a direct sales letter where all of your online visitors get directed to,
- Have a services site that will help build credibility and trust for your brand or organization, post news, announcements, or updates to staff, etc.
- Get more exposure online for your existing business – you will need a blog built on a separate domain, or added to your existing website to engage with users and keep customers informed about your latest product updates, or help your authority and expertise in your target market.
- Or you may need a combination of the above or something else entirely …
Write down all of your goals on your worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are documenting this process.
After you have written your list, go through your list and select the goal that has overriding importance above all others.
Write this goal down on your worksheet (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 in your process chart 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 continue to refer to your 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, let’s do the following right now:
After identifying at least 1-3 goals and written these down in your planning sheet, go back 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 website is helping you achieve your goals?
For example, your website’s goal could be to help you get a specific target amount of leads every week through the contact form on your site, or signing up “X” number of new opt-in subscribers per quarter, 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 adjust these as more feedback is collected from visitors.
Step 2 – Web Site Name
Once you have clearly identified your goals, the next step is to come up with an appropriate name for your web 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 using 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 looking 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 your name, but try to avoid being “too clever”. This also goes for choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. You can have a fun or quirky website name, but avoid names that may 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 are naming their sites. Study your competition, especially sites that 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 food, a quick search online for “cooking blog” reveals some ear-catching blog names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, “A Chef’s Daughter”, “The Rambling Spoon” and more …
(Researching name ideas for your site)
So … now is the time to get inspired. Make a big list of possible names and then narrow the list down.
After reducing this list down to the most likely choices, 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 website is all about. For example, in one of the cooking sites we came across while searching online, the site 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, the next step is to look at your domain name. If you plan to add a blog to your existing website and feel that this blog should be its own entity, then by all means 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 containing the keyword phrase that you want to rank well for in the search engines), expired domain names (domain names that the previous owner has decided not to renew and are available to be registered once more, different top level domain names and domain name extensions, etc.)
Tip: Subscribe to our site to learn more about useful strategies on registering domains and tips on developing and implementing your online marketing strategy.
Step 3 – Managing Your Site’s Technology
Once you have chosen a name and description for your web site, the next step is to have a clear plan outlining how to manage the technology that is going to host, support and power your website.
We recommend using WordPress.
(Build your website or blog with the WordPress Content Management System)
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 CMS platform, and, as you can see from the screenshot below, WordPress powers over 40% of the world’s CMS-driven websites.
(WordPress - the world’s leading Content Management System)
A WordPress-based website is an ideal web application platform for publishing content and communicating with users and potential clients.
A business web site or blog powered by the WordPress CMS platform allows you to better engage 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. In fact, no coding is 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, institutions, organizations and well-known brands, in fact, no longer use a traditional website built using static website building applications. More websites are now being powered by “blogging” software like WordPress, which provides businesses and their users with all of the functions and capabilities of regular websites.
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 development” languages such as HTML, then we recommend that you consider building your website or blog using WordPress.
Web Hosting & Web Management
In addition to choosing WordPress to power your site, you should also think about where you are going to host your site, and if you are going to hire professionals to manage your web site, or manage your own web site.
(Hosting And Managing Your Site)
We use and recommend WordPress for most business applications, and we provide a lot more detailed information about WordPress and tips on areas like domain name registration, webhosting and website management in other sections on this site.
If you need help or advice, please contact us for assistance.
Step 4 – Your Site’s Target Audience
After you have the basics of your site worked out, then the next step is to define who is your website’s target audience.
Key information about your target audience includes:
- What they need and want
- What problems your target audience is experiencing, 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 very important that you spend time creating as accurate a profile of your target audience as possible. Try to picture the actual person that you will be communicating directly with and presenting your content to.
To work through this process, begin by asking lots of questions, like the following:
- Who will your content be addressing?
- What will visitors search for on your site?
- What challenges are people experiencing that your website or blog can help them solve online? What types of solutions are people searching online for these issues?
- Is your target audience technology-savvy? How does your audience consume 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)? Will you need to create content like videos, audios or multimedia presentations continually to engage your target users?
- Where do they live? Is geographical location or factors like occupation, relationship status or income level, important to 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 and target these demographics online?
- How do your visitors see themselves? Who do your target users typically form relationships online with? What videos are they watching? What else do they buy, or consume online?
- What do your site 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 online for free?
Having the ability 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 with your website, and ensure that you end up with a website that will deliver you the kind of results you expect.
- If you don’t have access to accurate information about your target audience, just start with a “best guess” based on your experience and whatever research you can get your hands on.
- Try not to limit your criteria too much. You could be going after a niche that is just too small, or an online opportunity that may not be viable.
- 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, avoid trying to make your website be “everything to everyone”, 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 section.
This is the end of Part 1
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