This is Part 1 of a three-part article series about how to plan your website.
Are you thinking about getting a website for your business?
One of the most important decisions you have to make is if you should build this website yourself, or get someone to help create your website.
Both choices have pros and cons. Whichever option you select will depend on many things like:
- Budget amount
- How much time you have available
- Your needs and priorities
- Sense of urgency
- Your level of technical skill
- Your level of commitment to manage the project
- and so on …
If your budget is limited and you want to save money, you could opt to build the web site yourself, but it goes without saying that you will need to spend 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 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 Basic Guide To Web Site Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners
Whether you choose to build a website yourself or get it built by someone else, the first crucial step is to get your website planning done. In this post, we explain the importance of website planning and how to build a better web site.
Proper website planning is regarded by many online experts as being the most important part of the process of getting a website built. Careful planning before you begin helps to avoid costly mistakes later and can help you create a better end product.
In this article, we provide a comprehensive primer for business owners to help you better understand the process of planning a website for your business. We will also cover the dos and don’ts of planning a website or blog, and give you tips on how to talk to your web designer to make sure that you get a website that will perfectly meet your budget, suit your needs and deliver you great results online.
Important: before you even think of setting up a website or registering a domain name for your web site, it is highly recommended that you first spend a little time rethinking your marketing strategy.
Building a successful business presence online requires more than just having a professional website and business blog set up. It requires in addition to many other things, a commitment to developing and implementing an ongoing digital marketing strategy.
The Site Planning Process Simplified
So … you want a web presence.
Let’s start, then, by understanding the website planning process.
Study the diagram below, and let’s go through the information on this page together.
Note: To view a larger image click on the image or the link below the chart.
To make this process easier to follow, you will want to download and print the Website Planning Process 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 take you through the process. Also, make sure to shut out all distractions over the next 25-60 minutes.
Step 1 – Your Goals
No matter what type of web site you plan to build, the first step is to define one or more clear goals for your website and make it as specific as you can.
Try to answer the these questions:
- What kind of web site do you want to build? Will it be a business web site, e-commerce site, a business blog, or some other kind of website?
- What specific objectives do I expect to achieve with my website?
For example, your main goal could be to:
- Sell products or services online – you will want an online web store. Depending on your goals, this could also require purchasing or installing an SSL certificate to create a secure website (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), adding a membership site that only customers can access, etc.
- Build a list of subscribers – 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 sent to,
- Have a services site that will help build credibility and trust for your brand or professional services, post news, announcements, and updates, etc.
- Get more exposure online for your existing business – you will need a business blog built on a separate domain, or added to an existing website to provide tips or training information to new or potential customers, or help establish your authority and expertise in your target market.
- Or you may need a combination of the above or something else entirely …
List all 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 is most important to your business.
Write down this goal on your planning chart (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 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?
Owning a website is going to to add a ton of additional things you will need to manage.
Your website planning process is a subset of your business marketing planning process. It’s important, therefore, that you continually refer back to your marketing plan to make sure that you will 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 in your planning 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 site is on track to help you achieve your business objectives?
For example, your web site’s objective could be getting a specific target amount of leads each week via the contact form on your site, or signing up “X” amount of opt-in subscribers per 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: It’s also important to keep your goals as flexible as possible at this stage, so you can readjust these as more feedback is gathered from your site.
Step 2 – Your Web Site Name
After you have clearly identified your site’s goals, the next step is to name your site.
This is an important step in 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 just the name of your company, 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 product or service your company sells? What would they be typing into a search engine or browser to find you? Once you know this answer, try to come up with a name that would entice your users.
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. You can have a fun or quirky website name, but avoid anything that may 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 competition, especially those who occupy the search results that you would like to show up in.
For example, if you are thinking of starting a cooking blog, doing a quick search online for “cooking blog” reveals a number of memorable site names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, ”Shockingly Delicious”, ”Worth The Whisk” and more …
(Research name ideas for your web site)
So … this is the time to get inspired. Make a big list of possible names and then begin narrowing your list down.
After you have narrowed this list of names down to the best choices, repeat the same process as above to create a description, tagline or slogan for your website or blog.
Make your description concise and inform the reader with as few words as possible what the website is all about. For example, in one of the food 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 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 web site and feel that your 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 names for your website. For example, you can register keyword-rich domain names (i.e. domains that contain the key phrase you would like to rank for in the search engines), expired domain names (domain names that the previous owners have decided not to renew and that can be registered once more, different top level domains and domain name extensions, etc.)
Tip: Subscribe to our site for useful strategies on registering domains and tips on how to develop and implement a successful web marketing strategy.
Step 3 – Manage Your Website’s Technology
Once you have decided on a name and description for your site, the next step is to have a clear plan for managing the technology that is going to host, support and help power your web marketing vehicle.
We highly recommend getting your website built with WordPress.
WordPress is not only a robust and secure 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 web content management system, and, as you can see below, WordPress powers over 45% of the world’s CMS-driven websites.
(WordPress - the world’s leading CMS (Content Management System))
A WordPress-based site is ideal for publishing your content and communicating with existing and potential customers.
A business site or blog powered by WordPress lets you better engage with online users and makes things like posting content, special offers, promotions, news and announcements about your product or 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 essential features like site backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.
In fact, many businesses no longer use traditional websites built using traditional website building applications. More sites are now being powered by WordPress, which provides businesses and their users with all of the features and capabilities of a regular website.
If you want to control your business online and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn technical “web programming” languages such as HTML, then we recommend that you consider building your website or blog using WordPress.
Hosting And Web Management
As well as using WordPress to power your site, you should also plan how you are going to host your website, and whether you are going to outsource your website management to professionals, or manage the site yourself.
(Website Hosting & Web Management)
We use and recommend WordPress for many website applications, and we provide a lot more information about the benefits of using WordPress and expert advice on areas like how to register domain names, webhosting and website management in other blog posts on this site.
If you would like more help choosing your technology platform, just contact us for assistance.
Step 4 – Your Audience
Once you have the basics of your site worked out, then it’s time to define who is your target audience.
Key information about your web site’s target audience should include the following:
- What they need and want
- Any problems your target audience is experiencing, or will experience in the future
- How they consume information
- How they generally view themselves
- What they can expect from you and your business
It’s vitally important that you spend time creating as accurate a profile of your target website visitors 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, like the following:
- Who are you writing for?
- What kind of content will visitors look for on your website?
- What challenges are your users going to face that your business can help to solve online? What specific solutions are people searching online for these issues?
- Are your site users technology-savvy? How does your audience consume information? Will they prefer videos 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 continually to keep your visitors engaged?
- Where do they live? Will geography, or factors like age, relationship status or income level play a significant role in the success of your site? If so, what segments of the population will your site be marketing to and how will you find these demographics online?
- How do your visitors see themselves? Who do your visitors interact online with? What music are they downloading? 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 online for free or for a fee? What kind of information are you unwilling to provide to them for free?
Having the ability to define your site’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 in developing your website, which will then ensure that you get a better result in the end.
- If you don’t have access to accurate data about your target audience, just start with your “best guess” based on your experience and research.
- Don’t narrow 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, don’t try to make your website appeal to too broad an audience, 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 see when we continue exploring the website planning process in another post.
This is the end of Section 1
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