This is Part 1 of a 3-part series of articles designed to help you understand how to plan your website or blog.
Are you thinking about getting a website or blog built for your business?
One of the most important decisions you have to make is if you should build your website yourself, or get someone else to help create the website for you.
Both options have pros and cons. Whatever choice you pick will depend on a number of things such as:
- How much time you can put into developing your website
- Your business needs and priorities
- Level of urgency
- Your technical skills
- Your level of commitment to manage the project
- and so on …
If you have a small budget and you want to save money, you could decide to create your website yourself, but it goes without saying that you will then need to invest 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 Practical 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 do some website planning. In this blog post, we explain why better web site planning helps your business and what to do before you spend your money getting a web site built for your business.
Planning your website or blog is considered by many online experts as being one of the most important steps of building a successful business online. Investing time to plan your website before you begin will help you prevent costly errors later and create a better end product.
In this article, we provide a comprehensive primer for business owners designed to help 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 web developer to make sure that you get a website that will truly suit your needs and budget.
Important: Before setting up a website or registering a domain name for your website, it’s absolutely important that you first research your market.
Developing a successful presence online requires more than getting a professional web site built. It also requires amongst lots of other things, a commitment to developing and implementing an ongoing web marketing strategy.
The Website Planning Process Made Simple
So … you have decided that you need a web presence.
Let’s start, then, by understanding the website planning process.
Take a look at the chart below, and let’s go through the information on this page together.
Note: Click on the image or the link below the image to enlarge the chart.
To make the process easier to follow, you will want to download and print the Website Planning Process Flowchart below.
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 walk you through the process. Also, make sure to shut out all distractions for the next 20-45 minutes.
Step 1 – Defining Your Goals
No matter what kind of web site you choose to build, the first step is to define a clear goal for your web site and make it as specific as possible.
Try to answer the these questions:
- What kind of website are you planning to build? Will it be a business web site, e-commerce site, a personal blog, or some other kind of site?
- What specific objectives would I like to achieve with this website?
For example, your main goal could be to:
- Sell products or services online – you might need a site with e-commerce capabilities. Depending on your plan, this could include setting up a secure website (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), adding a private download area exclusively for registered users, etc.
- Build a list of subscribers – you might want a simple site built with a “squeeze” page (landing page) or a direct sales letter where all of your traffic gets sent to,
- Have a portfolio site that will help build credibility and trust for your professional services or brand, post news, announcements, and updates to staff, etc.
- Get more exposure online for your existing business – you might want to build a business blog built on a separate domain, or added to an existing website to better promote your services, or help assert your authority and expertise in your target market.
- Or you may need a combination of the above or something else entirely …
Write down as many goals and objectives as you can think of for your web site on your Website Planning worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are documenting this information.
After your goals have been written down, go through your list and choose the goal that is most important to your business.
Write down this goal in 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 record these on your planning sheet 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 pile on a ton of additional responsibilities on your plate.
Your website planning process is an integral aspect of your business marketing planning process. It’s important, therefore, that you continually refer back to your marketing plan to make sure that you have the resources and capabilities available to implement the strategies that will 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 down on your worksheet, return to “Goal 1” and ask yourself this question: “how am I going to measure this goal?”
In other words, what objective criteria will you use to evaluate your website’s performance? How will you know if your web site is helping you achieve your goals?
For example, your site’s objective could be to help you get a specific target amount of leads to submit a new enquiry each week through your site’s contact form, or getting “X” numbers of members per quarter, etc …
Also, 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: Keep your goals as flexible as possible at this stage, so you can adjust these as more information is gathered 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 website.
This is another important step in the website planning process, so take your time and 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 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 will probably have never heard about you.
Put yourself in the shoes of an online customer. Who would be looking online for the very product or service 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 users.
Note: You can be creative and clever with your name, but it’s best to avoid being “too clever”. the same can be said about choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. You can have a fun or quirky 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 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, doing a quick online search for “cooking blog” reveals a number of memorable site names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, ”Shockingly Delicious”, “The Rambling Spoon” and more …
(Researching name ideas for your website)
So … this is the time to get inspired. Make a huge list of names and then begin narrowing these down.
After reducing this list down to the most likely choices, repeat the same process as above to craft a description, tagline or slogan for your site.
Make your description concise and inform the reader with as few words as possible what your website or blog is all about. For example, in one of the food blogs we came across while doing research, their 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, 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 be its own entity, then go ahead and 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 that contain the key phrase that you would like to rank well 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 again, other top level domain names and domain name extensions, etc.)
Tip: Subscribe to this site to learn more about cost-effective strategies on registering domains and tips on developing a successful online marketing strategy.
Step 3 – Manage Your Site’s Technology
After settling on a name and description for your site, the next step is to come up with a clear plan specifying how you are going to manage the technology that is going to host, support and power your online business vehicle.
We recommend choosing 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 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 leading Content Management System)
A WordPress-based website is ideal for publishing content and communicating information about your business to your users and potential customers.
A website or blog powered by WordPress 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, 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 things 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 websites are now being powered with technologies like WordPress, which can provide businesses and their users with all of the functionality and capabilities of a regular website.
If you would like to have control of your own web marketing and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn technical “web code” languages such as HTML, then you should consider using a WordPress-powered business website or blog.
Hosting & Website Management
In addition to choosing to build your site using the WordPress web publishing software, you should also choose where you are going to host your site, and whether you plan to outsource the management of your website or blog to others, or manage everything yourself.
(Hosting & Site Management)
We use and recommend WordPress for many website applications, and we also provide a lot more information about the benefits of using WordPress and information on areas like domain name registration, what to look for in a good host and website management in other sections on this site.
If you need more help or advice with this step, just contact us for assistance.
Step 4 – Your Audience
After you have the basics of your site worked out, then the next step is to define who your site’s target audience is.
You need to know key information about your web site’s target audience, such as:
- What your audience needs and wants
- Problems your target audience is having, or will experience in the future
- How prefer to consume information
- How they generally tend to see themselves
- What they will expect from you and your business
It’s very important that you try and create as accurate a profile of your target site users as you can. Try to picture the ideal person that you will be communicating directly with and presenting your information to.
Begin this process by asking lots of questions, such as:
- Who is the ideal visitor for your web site?
- What kind of information will visitors be searching for on your site?
- What issues are your users going to face that the information you plan to provide on your site can help to solve online? What types of solutions are people searching online for these problems?
- Are your target users technology-savvy? How will your users consume digital information? Does your audience prefer video 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 continually to engage your audience?
- Where are they located? Is geographical location or factors like age, religion or income level, important to the success of your site? 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 target users see themselves? Who do they interact online with? What videos are they downloading? What else are they buying or consuming online?
- What will 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 online for free?
Being able to accurately 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, which will then ensure that you get a better end product.
- If you don’t have access to accurate information about your target audience, just start with your “best guess” based on your experience and research.
- Don’t narrow your scope too much. You could be going after 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 web site appeal to too broad an audience, or you’ll just end up putting yourself in an untenable position when it comes to populating your site with content, as you will learn when we continue exploring the website planning process in another post.
This is the end of Section 1
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