This is Part One of a 3-part series of articles about how to plan your website.
Are you thinking about getting a website built for your business?
If so, one of the most important decisions you have to make is if you should build your web site yourself, or get someone to help build the website for you.
Both choices have pros and cons. Whatever choice you select will depend on a number of factors such as:
- What kind of financial resources you have available
- How much time you can put into the project
- Your needs
- Level of urgency
- Your skill level
- Your level of commitment to supervise and manage the project
- And many other factors …
If you have a small budget and you want to save money, you could decide to build your website yourself, but it goes without saying that you will need to spend some time figuring out how to put your site together.
- 1 A Basic Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners
A Basic Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners
Whether you decide to build a website yourself or get it built by someone else, the first crucial step is to do some website planning. In this post, we explain in simple terms the importance of web site planning and how to save money getting a web site.
Proper website planning is considered by many online marketing experts to be one of the most important steps of the entire process of getting your website for your business. Careful planning at the beginning will help you avoid costly errors later and create a better end product.
In this article, we provide a comprehensive primer for business owners that will help you better understand the website planning process. We will also cover what to do and what not to do when planning a website or blog, and give you tips on how to talk to your web designer to ensure that you get a website that will perfectly meet your budget, suit your needs and deliver you the type of results you expect.
Important: before you even think of setting up a website or registering a domain for your web site, it is vitally important that you first do a little market research.
Developing a successful digital presence requires more than getting a professional website or business blog set up. It requires amongst lots of other things, a commitment to developing and implementing an ongoing web site marketing strategy.
The Website Planning Process Made Simple
So … you have decided that you want an online presence.
Let’s start, then, by gaining a better understanding of the website planning process.
Before doing anything else, take a look at the diagram below, and let’s go step-by-step through the information on this page together.
Note: Click on the image or the link below the image to enlarge the image.
To make the process easy to follow, we recommend that you download and print the Website Planning Chart shown in the above chart.
After downloading and printing out the website planning process chart, 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 walk you through the process. Also, make sure that you will not have any distractions over the next 15-45 minutes.
Step 1 – Your Goals
Regardless of the type of website you decide to build, the first step is to define one or more goals for your web site and make it as specific as you can.
Come up with answers to the following questions:
- What kind of website am I planning to build? Is it a corporate web site, an e-commerce site, a business blog, or some other kind of site?
- What do I expect the website to help me achieve?
For example, your goal could be to:
- Sell products or services online – you will want to build an online web store. Depending on your needs, this could even include purchasing an SSL certificate to create a secure website (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), the addition of a private membership area that only your registered users can access, etc.
- Build a list of subscribers – you might want to look at getting a simple site built with a “squeeze” page (landing page) or an information page and a lead capture form where all of your online visitors get sent to,
- Have a corporate site that will help build credibility and trust for your brand or professional services, post news, announcements, or updates to staff and clients, etc.
- Get more exposure online for your existing business – you may want a business blog built on a separate domain, or added to your existing website to better promote your services, or help establish your authority and expertise in your specific niche.
- Or something else …
List all of your goals on your worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are documenting this information.
Once your goals have been written down, go through the list and choose the goal that has overriding importance above all others.
Write this goal down in your worksheet (in “Your Website Goals” section) as “Goal 1“.
Now, review your list and repeat this process to find two more goals and list these on your flowchart 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?
Running 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 available to implement any strategies you set to help you achieve your goals.
So, with this in mind, do the following right now:
After listing at least 1-3 goals and written these down on 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 goals?
For example, your website’s goal could be to help you get a specific number of leads to submit an inquiry each week using the contact form on your site, or getting “X” amount of newsletter subscribers per month, 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: Keep your goals as flexible as possible at this stage, so you can adjust these as more information is gathered from visitors.
Step 2 – Website Name
After you have clearly identified your website’s goals, the next step is to come up with an appropriate name for your site.
This is another important step in the website planning process, so take your time to think carefully about coming up with a good name for 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 the obvious (i.e. your company name), especially if your name isn’t something that immediately brings up your products or services to mind. Remember, most online users will probably have never heard of you.
Put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes. Who would be searching 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 potential customers.
Note: You can be creative and clever with your name, but try to avoid being “too creative”. the same goes for choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. It can be a fun or quirky site name, but avoid anything that could be made to sound offensive (and definitely stay away from trademarked or registered names or phrases – you’ll just be asking for 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 those who occupy the search results that you would like to show up in.
For example, if you are thinking of starting a blog related to food, a quick online search for “cooking blog” reveals a number of catchy blog names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, ”Shockingly Delicious”, ”Worth The Whisk” and more …
(Researching name ideas for your web site or blog)
So … this is where you can get inspired. Make a huge list of names and then start narrowing this list down.
After reducing your list down to the most likely contenders, 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 your web site is all about. For example, in one of the food sites we came across while searching online, the 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 this 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 website. For example, you can register keyword-rich domain names (i.e. domains that include the keyword phrase that you would like to rank highly for in the search engines), expired domain names (a domain that the previous owners have decided not to renew and that can be registered once more, other top level domains and domain name extensions, etc.)
Tip: Subscribe to this site for cost-effective strategies on registering domains and tips on how to develop your website marketing strategy.
Step 3 – Manage Your Site’s Technology
After deciding on a name and description for your website, the next step is to develop a clear plan to manage the technology that is going to host, support and help drive your website.
We highly recommend getting your site built with WordPress.
(Build your website with WordPress)
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 content management system (CMS), 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)
A WordPress-driven website is ideal for publishing your content and communicating with users and potential customers.
A business web site or blog driven by the WP platform allows you to engage with site visitors and makes things like posting content, special offers, promotions, news and announcements about your business, 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 tasks like data backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.
In fact, many businesses no longer use static websites built using static website building technologies. More websites are now being powered using “blogging” software like WordPress, which provides businesses and their users with all of the functionality and capabilities of regular websites.
If you would like to have better management of your own web marketing and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn “web coding” languages such as HTML, then we recommend that you consider choosing a WordPress-powered business website or blog.
Web Hosting And Site Management
In addition to choosing to build your website or blog with the WordPress content management system (CMS), you should also decide where you are going to host your website, and if you plan to outsource your website management to professionals, or manage your own website or blog.
(Hosting And Managing Your Site)
We use and recommend WordPress for most business applications, and we provide a lot more detailed information about WordPress and information on subjects like domain name registration, finding a good host and website management in other articles on this site.
If you need help or advice with this step, please contact us for assistance.
Step 4 – Defining Your Website Audience
Once you have gone through the basic planning steps above, then it’s time to define who your website’s target audience will be.
You will want to know key information about your web site’s target audience, such as:
- Audience demographics
- Needs and wants
- Problems your audience is experiencing, or will experience in the future
- How they like to consume information
- How they generally tend to view themselves
- What they may expect from you or your site
It’s essential that you try and create as accurate a profile of your target site 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 questions, like:
- Who is the ideal visitor for your website or blog?
- What will visitors be looking for on your website?
- What challenges are people experiencing that your website will help to solve online? What specific solutions are people searching online for these issues?
- Is your target audience technology-savvy? How does your audience consume digital information? Will they prefer videos to visual content like images or graphics and text? Do they need downloadable content (e.g. price lists, schedules, timetables)? Will you need to create content like videos, audios or multimedia presentations continually to keep your visitors engaged?
- Where do they live? Will geographic location, or factors like occupation, religion 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 and target these demographics online?
- How do your target users see themselves? Who do your visitors normally form online relationships with? What magazines and books 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 online for free?
Being able to define your site’s key 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 with your website, and ensure that you get a better end product.
If you don’t have access to accurate research information about your target audience, just start with a “best guess” based on your experience and whatever research you manage to get done.
Also, try not to narrow your criteria 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.
Conversely, unless you plan to build a portal website and have the resources to do so, don’t try to make your web site 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.
This is the end of Part 1
To continue reading this article, click here:
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