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 designed to help you understand the website planning process.

Are you considering the idea of starting a web site for your business?

One of the most important decisions you need to make is whether or not to build your site yourself, or get someone to help build your site.

Both choices have pros and cons. Whatever option you pick will depend on things such as:

  • Budget
  • How much time you have available
  • Your business needs and priorities
  • Level of urgency
  • Your technical skills
  • Your level of commitment to manage the project
  • etc …

If your budget is limited and you want to save money, you could opt to create the web site yourself, but it goes without saying that you will need to invest time learning how to put it all together.

Practical 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 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

Understanding The Website Planning Process

Whether you choose to build a website yourself or get it built by someone else, 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 you build a website for your business.

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

Planning your web site is considered by many web business experts as being the most important aspect of the process of getting a website built. Careful planning in the early stages of your business development process helps to prevent costly mistakes later and can help you create a better end product.

Below, you will find a comprehensive primer for non-technical users to help you better understand the 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 developer to make sure that you end up with a website that will truly suit your needs and budget.

Important Info

Important: before you even think of setting up a website or registering a domain name for your online presence, it’s absolutely important that you first invest a little time rethinking your marketing strategy.

Building a successful business presence online requires more than getting a professional website set up. It requires amongst lots of other things, a commitment to developing and implementing an ongoing online marketing strategy.

The Website Planning Process Made Simple

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 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 image.

The Web Site Planning Process - A Money-Saving Blueprint For Non-Technical Business Owners

(click to view larger flowchart)

To make this process easier to follow, you may want to download and print the Website Planning Chart shown above.

After downloading and printing 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 for the next 30-60 minutes.

Step 1 – Website Goals

No matter what type of website you plan to build, the first step is to define clear goals for your website and make it as specific as you can.

Try to answer the the following:

  • What kind of website do you want to build? Will it be a professional services website, e-commerce site, a sales blog, or some other kind of site?
  • What do you expect to achieve with the site?

For example, your goal could be to:

  • Sell products or services online – you may want to look at getting an online shop. Depending on your plan, this could even require setting up a secure website (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), adding a membership site exclusively for registered users, etc.
  • Build a list of subscribers – you may 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 portfolio site that will help build credibility and trust for your brand or organization, post news, announcements, and updates, etc.
  • Get more exposure online for your existing business – you may want a blog built on a separate domain, or added to your existing website to better promote your services, or help grow your authority and expertise in your specific niche.
  • Or you may need a combination of the above or something else entirely …

List as many goals as you can think of for your web site on your worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are documenting this information.

Once your goals have been written down, go through your list and select the goal that is most important to your business.

Write this goal on your process chart (in “Your Website Goals” section) as “Goal 1“.

Now, return to your list and repeat this process to find two more goals and record these on your planning chart as “Goal 2” and “Goal 3“.

Important

You’ve probably heard the old saying “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

But, what if you already can’t manage?

Running a website is going to pile on a whole lot of extra responsibilities on your plate.

Your website planning process is a subset of your business marketing planning process. 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:

After selecting 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, how are you going to quantify and review your results? How will you know if your site is helping you achieve your business objectives?

For example, your website’s objective could be to help you get a specific target amount of leads to submit a new inquiry each week through your site’s contact form, or signing up “X” number of new list subscribers per marketing 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.

Tip

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

Step 2 – Your Website Name

After you have clearly identified your website’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 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 business 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 the shoes of your ideal customer. 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 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 it’s best to avoid being “too creative”. the same goes for choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. You can have a fun or quirky website 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 have named their sites. Study your competition, especially those who occupy the search results that you would like to own.

For example, if you are planning to start a cooking blog, doing a quick search online for “cooking blog” reveals some great blog names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, “A Chef’s Daughter”, ”Worth The Whisk” and more …

Research name ideas for your website

(Researching ideas for your website or blog’s name)

So … this is the step where you can get inspired. Make a huge list of possible names and then start narrowing your list down.

Once you have narrowed this list down to the most likely candidates, repeat the same process as above to create a description, tagline or slogan for your website or blog.

Your description should be concise and inform the reader in as few words as possible what the site is all about. For example, in one of the food blogs 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 website’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 website and decide that your blog should have its own domain name, go ahead 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 that contain the key phrase you want to rank highly for in search engines), expired domain names (domain names that the previous owner has decided not to renew and that have been made available for registration once again, different top level domain names 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 and implementing your web marketing strategy.

Step 3 – Managing Your Web Technology

After choosing a name and description for your site, the next step is to develop a clear plan specifying how you are going to manage the technology that will host, support and help drive your online business vehicle.

We highly encourage you to consider building your site with WordPress.

WordPress

(Build your website with the WordPress Content Management System)

WordPress is not only a robust 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 almost half of the world’s CMS-driven websites.

WordPress is the world's most popular Content Management System (CMS)

(WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS (Content Management System))

A WordPress-based site is an ideal online technology platform for publishing your content and communicating with users and potential clients.

A business site or blog built using WordPress allows you to interact with site visitors and makes things like posting content, special offers, promotions, news and announcements about your business, 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 businesses no longer use a static website built using static website building technologies. More sites are now being powered with WordPress, which provides businesses and their users with all of the functionality and capabilities of regular websites.

If you would like to control your business online and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn technical “web code” languages such as HTML, then we recommend that you consider using a WordPress-powered business website or blog.

Web Site Hosting And Site Management

As well as using WordPress to drive your site, you should also think about who is going to host your site, and whether you are going to hire somebody else to manage your website, or manage your own website.

Hosting & Web Management

(Hosting And Website Management)

Useful Tip

We use and recommend WordPress for many website needs, and we provide more information about the WordPress CMS and tips on subjects like how to register domain names, how to choose a good host and website management in other blog posts on this site.

If you would like more help choosing your technology platform, please contact us for assistance.

Step 4 – Define Your Website Target Audience

Once you have the initial planning steps worked out, then it’s time to define who is your target audience.

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

  • Demographics
  • What your audience needs and wants
  • Problems your target audience is facing, or will encounter in the future
  • How they like to consume digital information
  • How they generally view themselves
  • What they may expect from you or your site

It’s important to spend time creating as accurate a profile of your target visitors as you can. 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, like the following:

  • Who is your ideal reader for your site?
  • What will visitors look for on your web site?
  • What problems and challenges are your visitors going to experience that your information can help to solve online? What types of solutions are people searching online for these issues?
  • Are they technology-savvy? How does your target audience consume 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)? Will you need to create content like videos, audios or multimedia presentations regularly in order to engage your visitors?
  • Where are they located? Is geographical location or factors like education, religion or income level, significant to the success of your business? If so, what segments of the population will your web site be marketing to and how will you find these demographics online?
  • How do your visitors see themselves? Who does your target audience engage online with? What magazines and publications do they read? What else are they buying or consuming online?
  • What do your site users expect from your site? What kind of information are you willing to provide online freely or for a fee? What kind of information will you not be providing to them for free?

Having the ability to accurately define your website’s key 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 get a better result in the end.

Useful Tip

  • If you don’t have access to accurate research data about your target audience, then start with your “best guess” based on your experience and research.
  • Don’t limit things 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 sustainable.
  • 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, don’t try 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 see when we continue exploring the website planning process in another post.

The Website Planning Process Explained: A Useful Primer For Non-Technical Business Owners

(Source: Pixabay)

***

This is the end of Part 1

To keep reading this article, click on the link below:

Tip

Would You Like To Get Automatically Notified When New Tutorials Are Published? Then Subscribe To Our Site!

Additional images: Notebook, Map, Server, Startup.

***

"I was absolutely amazed at the scope and breadth of these tutorials! The most in-depth training I have ever received on any subject!" - Myke O'Neill, DailyGreenPost.com

***

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

Build An e-Commerce Store With WordPressBuild An e-Commerce Store With WordPress

Learn how to set up an e-commerce store on your WordPress site using e-commerce platforms like WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads.

More info: Build An e-Commerce Store With WordPress

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

How To Use SoftaculousHow To Use Softaculous

Softaculous is a software program that automates the installation of commercial and open source web applications to websites on webhosting applications like cPanel. This video course shows you how to install WordPress on your website using Softaculous.

More info: How To Use Softaculous

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

How To Use FTPHow To Use FTP

This video course shows you how to use FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to transfer and upload files between your hard drive and your server using a free FTP program called Filezilla.

More info: How To Use FTP

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

Build A WordPress Site ... Fast!Build A WordPress Site ... Fast!

Need a new website or blog in a hurry?

This video course shows you how to quickly install and configure a WordPress website or blog on your own domain name and be up and running in no time!

More info: Build A WordPress Site ... Fast!

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

Keyword Research ToolsKeyword Research Tools

This video course shows you how to do keyword research using tools like the Google Keyword Planner.

More info: Keyword Research Tools

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

How To Set Up WordPress On LocalhostHow To Set Up WordPress On Localhost

Learn how to install, set up, and locally host a fully functioning WordPress site on your computer.

More info: How To Set Up WordPress On Localhost

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

Why Your Business Needs WordPressWhy Your Business Needs WordPress

Learn about the unique features, benefits, and advantages of using WordPress to start or grow your business online.

More info: Why Your Business Needs WordPress

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

How To Install, Set Up & Use WordPress MultisiteHow To Install, Set Up & Use WordPress Multisite

Learn how to quickly and securely set up an online community of websites or blogs using the powerful WordPress Multisite feature.

More info: WordPress Multisite

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

How To Use cPanelHow To Use cPanel

cPanel is a powerful and simple-to-use web hosting management software application that gives website owners the ability to quickly and easily manage their servers and websites using a simple and intuitive dashboard.

This video course will teach you how to use the main features of cPanel to manage your web hosting.

More info: How To Use cPanel

Recommended Video Courses For WordPress Users

How To Use Amazon S3How To Use Amazon S3

Learn how to set up and use Amazon S3 to upload, store, manage, and protect your site’s images, large media files, downloadable files, stream videos and more.

More info: How To Use Amazon S3

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.