This is Part One of a three-part article series about how to plan your website or blog.
Are you considering the idea of getting a website built for your business?
One of the many decisions you have to make is whether or not to build your website yourself, or get someone to help build the site for you.
Both choices have pros and cons. Whichever choice you pick will depend on various factors such as:
- Your budget
- How much time you have available
- Your priorities
- How urgently you need your site to be up and running
- Your technical skills
- Your level of commitment to supervise and manage the project
- and so on …
If you have a small budget and you want to save money, you could decide to develop the website yourself, but it goes without saying that you will then need to invest some time learning how to put everything 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 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
A Cost-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 important step is to get some good planning done. In this blog post, we explain in simple terms why better website planning can help your business and what to do before investing in website development.
Planning your web site is regarded by many web strategists as being one of the most important parts of building a successful business online. Taking time to carefully plan your site upfront will help you avoid costly mistakes later and create a better end product.
Below, you will find a comprehensive blueprint for business owners aimed at helping you better understand the process of planning a website for your business. We will also cover what to do and what not to do when planning a business website or blog, and give you tips on how to brief your website developer to make sure that you end up with the exact type of website that you want.
Important: Before setting up a website or registering a domain name for your online presence, it is highly recommended that you first do a little market research.
Developing a successful business presence online requires more than just getting a professional website and business blog built. It also requires other things, a commitment to develop and implement an ongoing digital marketing strategy.
The Site Planning Process Made Simple
So … you need a website.
Let’s start, then, with an overview of the website planning process.
Before doing anything else, take a look at the flowchart below, and let’s go 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 image.
To make this process easier to follow, we recommend that you download and print the Website Planning Flowchart below.
After downloading and printing out the website planning flowchart, grab some sheets of paper and a pen, or whatever you use to take notes, so you can write down your thoughts and ideas as we take you through the process. Also, make sure to shut out all distractions for the next 25-60 minutes.
Step 1 – Your Website Goals
Regardless of the kind of site you plan to build, the first step is to define a clear goal for your site and make these goals as specific as you can.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What kind of web site am I planning to build? Will it be a business website, an e-commerce site, a personal blog, or some other kind of website?
- What specific objectives do I want to achieve with the website?
For example, your main goal could be to:
- Sell products or services online – you might want to build an e-commerce website. Depending on your objectives, this could require setting up a secure site (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), the addition of a private product download area that only customers can access, etc.
- Capture new leads – you may need a simple site built with a “squeeze” page (landing page) or a direct sales letter where all of your online traffic gets sent 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 might want to look at getting a business blog built on a separate domain, or added to an 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 …
List your web site goals on your worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are documenting this information.
After you have written your list, go through the list and choose 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, return to your list and repeat this process to find at least two more goals and record these on your worksheet 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?
Building a website is going to pile on a ton of additional responsibilities on your plate.
Your website planning process is a subset 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 will 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:
Once you have identified at least 1-3 goals and written these on your process chart, 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 web site is on track to help your business achieve your objectives?
For example, your website’s goal could be to help you get a specific target amount of leads each week through your site’s contact form, or signing up “X” number of new newsletter subscribers per month, 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 modify these once more feedback is gathered from your site from your site visitors.
Step 2 – Naming Your Site
Once you have clearly identified your website’s goals, the next step is to name your web site.
This is another 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. 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 the obvious (i.e. your company 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 of you.
Put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes. Who would be looking online for the very thing you sell? 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 potential clients.
Note: You can be creative and clever with your name, but try to avoid being “too creative”. The same advice can be said about choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. You can have a fun or quirky website name, but it’s best to try and avoid web site names that could 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 have named their sites. Study your competitors, especially those who occupy the search results that you would like to appear in.
For example, if you are planning to start a food blog, a quick search online for “cooking blog” reveals a number of catchy blog names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, “A Chef’s Daughter”, “The Rambling Spoon” and more …
(Researching ideas for the name of your website)
So … now is the time to get inspired. Make a big list of potential names and then begin narrowing this list down.
After reducing the list of names down to the best choices, repeat the same process as above to craft 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 the website or blog is all about. For example, in one of the food blogs we came across while searching online, the site’s description was “Fast, Fresh, and Simple Recipes Easy Enough for Tonight’s dinner.”
Including keywords in your web site’s name and description can also be useful.
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 website and decide that your business blog should have its own domain name, then 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 contain the key phrase you would like to rank highly for in search engines), expired domain names (domains that the previous owners have 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 practical strategies on registering domains and tips on developing and implementing a successful web marketing strategy.
Step 3 – Managing Your Web Technology
After choosing a name and description for your site, the next step is to come up with a clear plan for managing the technology that is going to host, support and help power your online business vehicle.
We highly recommend getting your website built with WordPress.
(Build your website or blog 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 from the screenshot below, WordPress powers over 45% of the world’s CMS-driven websites.
(WordPress - the world’s leading Content Management System (CMS))
A WordPress-driven website or blog is ideal for publishing your content and communicating with users and potential clients.
A website or blog driven by the WordPress platform lets you better interact with site visitors and makes things like posting content, special offers, promotions, news and announcements about your products, 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 features like site 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 traditional websites built using traditional website building applications. More sites are now being powered with WordPress, which provides businesses and their users with all of the functionality and capabilities of a regular website.
If you would like to have better 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.
Web Hosting And Website Management
As well as choosing WordPress to drive your website, you should also think about who is going to host your website, and if to hire somebody else to manage your web site, or manage your own web site.
(Hosting & Web Management)
We use and recommend WordPress for many business uses, and we provide more information about the benefits of using WordPress and information on areas like how to register domain names, webhosting and website management in other sections on this site.
If you would like more help or advice with this step, don’t hesitate to contact us for assistance.
Step 4 – Defining Your Target Audience
After you have figured out the initial steps above, then the next step is to define who will be your website’s target audience.
You need to know key information about your web site’s target audience, such as:
- Audience demographics
- Needs and wants
- What kind of problems your target audience is experiencing, or will experience in the future
- How prefer to consume information
- How they generally see themselves
- What they may expect from you or your business
It’s important to spend time creating as accurate a profile of your target visitors as possible. Try to picture the actual person that you will be communicating directly with when presenting your content to.
To work through this process, begin by asking important questions, such as:
- Who is your ideal reader for your web site?
- What kind of information will visitors search for on your web site?
- What issues are people experiencing that you will help them solve online? What types of solutions are people searching online for similar issues?
- Are your visitors technology-savvy? How does your target audience consume digital information? Does your audience prefer videos to visual content like images or graphics and text? Do they need downloadable content (e.g. price lists, schedules, timetables)? Do you need to create visual, audio or multimedia content to keep your audience engaged?
- Where are they located? Can geography and factors like age, relationship status or income level impact the success of your website? 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 does your target audience usually form online relationships with? What videos are they watching? What else are they buying or consuming online?
- What do your visitors 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 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 your web developer and everyone else assisting you with your website, and ensure that you get a better end product.
- If you don’t have access to accurate information about your target audience, just start with a “best guess” based on your experience and research.
- Try not to 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 worth pursuing.
- 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 developing and implementing an effective content strategy for your site, as you will learn when we continue exploring the website planning process in another section.
This is the end of Section 1
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