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 about how to plan your website.

Are you thinking about getting a web site for your business?

If so, one of the many decisions you need to make is whether or not to build this website yourself, or get someone to help build your site.

Both choices have pros and cons. Whatever choice you pick will depend on various factors such as:

  • Budget amount
  • How much time you can put into this area
  • Your priorities
  • Sense of urgency
  • Your technical skills
  • Your level of commitment to manage the project
  • And many other factors …

If your budget is limited and you want to save money, you could choose to develop the website yourself, but it goes without saying that you will need to spend some time learning how to put it all 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

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

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

Planning A Web Site: A Useful Blueprint For Business Owners

Website planning is considered by many online experts as being one of the most important steps in the entire process of getting a website built. Careful planning before you begin can help you prevent costly errors later and create a better end product.

Below, we have compiled a comprehensive guide for non-technical users to help you better understand the website planning process. We will also cover the dos and don’ts of planning a website, and give you tips on how to brief your web developer to make sure that you end up with a great website that you will truly be happy with.

Info

Important: Before even thinking of setting up a website or registering a domain for your web site, it’s absolutely important that you first research your market.

Developing 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 website marketing strategy.

The Site Planning Process Simplified

So … you want a website.

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

Before doing anything else, study the flowchart below, and let’s work step-by-step through the information on this page together.

Note: To view a larger image click on the image or the link below the process chart.

The Web Site Planning Process: A Comprehensive Primer For Business Owners

(click here to view a larger-sized image)

To make the process easier to follow, we recommend downloading and printing the Website Planning Chart shown in the above process chart.

Once you have downloaded and printed out the website planning process chart, 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 20-45 minutes.

Step 1 – Goals

Regardless of the kind of web site you are planning to build, the first step is to define clear goals for your site and make these as specific as possible.

Ask the following questions:

  • What kind of website do you want to build? Is it a business web site, an e-commerce site, a business blog, or some other kind of website?
  • What specific objectives would you like to achieve with this website?

For example, your main goal could be to:

  • Sell products or services online – you might want a site with e-commerce capabilities. Depending on your goals, this could also require setting up a secure website (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), the addition of a membership site that only registered users can access, etc.
  • Build a list of subscribers – you might need a simple site built with a “squeeze” page (landing page) or an information page and a lead capture form where all of your traffic gets sent to,
  • Have a corporate site that will help build credibility and trust for your professional services or brand, post news, announcements, or information about company events, 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 provide tips or training information to your new and potential customers, or help grow your authority and expertise in your target market.
  • Or you may need a combination of the above or something else entirely …

Record whatever goals you want your website to help you achieve on your worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are documenting this process.

Once you have written your list, go through your list and choose the goal that has overriding importance above all others.

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

Now, go back to your list and repeat this process to find at least two more goals and write these down in your planning sheet as “Goal 2” and “Goal 3“.

Information

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 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 continually refer back to your business marketing plan to make sure that you will have the resources and capabilities 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 listed at least 1-3 goals and written these on your planning chart, go back to “Goal 1” and ask yourself this question: “how will I measure this goal?”

In other words, what benchmarks are you going to use to assess 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 number of leads every week using the contact form on your website, or signing up “X” amount of new membership sales per quarter, 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.

Tip

Note: It’s also important to keep your goals as flexible as possible at this stage, so you can modify these as more information is collected from users.

Step 2 – Name Your Website

After you have clearly identified your website’s 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 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 your business name isn’t something that immediately brings up your products or services to mind. Remember, most online users have probably never heard about you.

Put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes. 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 prospects.

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 name, but avoid 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 quickly find out what other companies in your industry or niche are naming their sites. Study your competitors, especially sites that occupy the search results that you would like to appear in.

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

Researching ideas for your site's name

(Research name ideas for your website)

So … this is the time to get inspired. Make a big list of names and then start narrowing this list down.

After you have reduced this list down to the best candidates, repeat the same process as above to create a description, tagline or unique value proposition for your website.

Your description should be concise and inform the reader in as few words as possible what your website is all about. For example, in one of the food sites we came across while doing research, the blog’s description was “Fast, Fresh, and Simple Recipes Easy Enough for Tonight’s dinner.”

Including keywords in your site’s name and description can also be useful.

After completing this step, the next step is to look at your domain name. If you plan to add a blog to your existing site and feel that your business blog should be its own entity, then register a new domain name for your site.

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

Useful Tip

Tip: Subscribe to our site to learn more about practical strategies on registering domains and tips on developing a successful website marketing strategy.

Step 3 – Managing Your Website’s Technology

After choosing a name and description for your site, the next step is to create a clear plan outlining how to manage the technology that is going to host, support and drive your web marketing vehicle.

We strongly recommend choosing WordPress.

Build your website or blog with the WordPress CMS

(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 CMS platform, and, as you can see from the screenshot below, WordPress powers over 45% of the world’s CMS-driven websites.

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

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

A WordPress-driven website is ideal for publishing content and communicating information about your business to users and potential clients.

A website or blog built using WordPress lets you engage with online users 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. No coding is, in fact, required to publish content on a WordPress site, and managing things like backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.

In fact, many large companies, small to medium businesses, institutions, organizations and well-known brands no longer use static websites built using traditional website building tools. More websites around the world are now being powered with technologies like WordPress, which provides businesses and their users with all of the functions and capabilities of regular websites.

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

Hosting And Site Management

As well as choosing to build your web site using the WordPress content management system (CMS), you should also think about where you are going to host your site, and if you are going to outsource your web site management to someone else, or manage the web site yourself.

Hosting & Web Management

(Hosting And Managing Your Web Site)

Practical Tip

We use and recommend WordPress for most business applications, and we also provide a lot more information about the benefits of using WordPress and tips on subjects like how to register domain names, how to find a good webhost and website management in other posts on this site.

If you need more help or advice, feel free to contact us for assistance.

Step 4 – Your Website Audience

Once you have the basics of your site figured out, then it’s time to define who will be your target audience.

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

  • Demographics
  • Needs and wants
  • Any problems users have, or will face in the future
  • How they like to consume digital information
  • How they generally view themselves
  • What they expect from you and your business

It’s very important that you spend time creating as accurate a profile of your ideal users as possible. Try to picture the ideal person that you will be communicating directly with when presenting your information to.

Begin this process by asking important questions, like the following:

  • Who is your ideal reader for your web site?
  • What will users be searching for on your site?
  • What challenges are your users going to face that the content you provide on your website can help them solve online? What types of solutions are people searching online for similar problems?
  • Are your site users technology-savvy? How does your audience consume digital information? Does your audience 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 often in order to engage your target users?
  • Where do they live? Will geography, or factors like age, religion or gender play a significant role in the success of your website? If so, what segments of the population will your website or blog be marketing to and how will you target these demographics online?
  • How do they see themselves? Who do they form online relationships with? What magazines and books are they reading? What else do they buy, or consume online?
  • What do your target users expect from your site? What kind of information are you willing to provide to them freely or for a fee? What kind of information will you not be providing to them for free?

Being able to define your website’s target users 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, and help to ensure that you get a website that will perfectly meet your budget and suit your needs.

Tip

  • If you don’t have access to accurate data about your target audience, then start with a “best guess” based on your experience and whatever research you can manage to get done.
  • Don’t narrow 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 webhostingautomatic 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 or blog 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 website, as you will see when we continue exploring the website planning process in another post.

How To Plan A Website - A Cost-Saving Primer For Business Owners

(Source: Pixabay)

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This is the end of Section 1

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and the author of The Small Business Digital Manager. 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.