Are you considering the idea of taking your small business online?
One of the many decisions you need to make is if you should build your site yourself, or get someone to help build your site.
Both options have pros and cons. Whatever option you decide will depend on a number of factors like:
- Your financial situation
- How much time you have available
- Your priorities
- Sense of urgency
- Your skill level
- Your level of commitment to supervise and manage the project
- etc …
If you have a small budget and you want to save money, you could opt to develop the web site yourself, but it goes without saying that you will then need to invest time learning how to put everything 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
The Web Site Planning Process - A Cost-Saving Blueprint For Non-Technical Business Owners
Whether you decide to build a website yourself or get someone to build it for you, the first crucial step is to get some good planning done. In this article, we explain in simple terms the importance of planning your business website and what to avoid doing when planning a website.
Planning your website or blog is regarded by many web business experts as being the most important part in building a successful website. Careful planning before you begin helps to avoid costly mistakes later and also help create a better end product.
In this article, we provide a comprehensive guide for business owners to help you better understand the process of planning your website. We will also cover the do’s and don’ts of planning a business website, and give you tips on how to talk to your website developer to make sure that you end up with a website that will perfectly meet your budget, suit your needs and deliver you the type of results you expect.
Important: Before setting up a website or registering a domain for your website, it’s highly recommended that you first spend a little time re-evaluating your marketing strategy.
Building a successful online business presence requires more than just having a professional web site set up. It requires other things, a commitment to developing and implementing an ongoing web site marketing strategy.
The Website Planning Process Simplified
So … you want an online presence.
Let’s start, then, by understanding the website planning process.
Study the process chart below, and let’s go step-by-step through the information in this post together.
Note: To view a larger image click on the image or the link below the process chart.
To make the process easy to follow, we recommend that you download and print the Website Planning Chart shown above.
After downloading and printing out the website planning flowchart, grab some sheets of 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 that you will not have any distractions over the next 15-60 minutes.
Step 1 – Your Website Goals
Regardless of the type of web site you plan to build, the first step is to define a clear goal for your web site and make these goals as specific as possible.
Ask these questions:
- What kind of website are you planning to build? Will it be a business website, an e-commerce site, a marketing blog, or some other kind of site?
- What specific objectives would you like the site to help you achieve?
For example, your goal could be to:
- Sell products or services online – you will need to build an online shop. Depending on your goals, this may include setting up a secure website (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), adding a membership area exclusively for your registered users, etc.
- Build a list of subscribers – you may want a simple site built with a “squeeze” page (landing page) or an information page and a lead capture form where all of your visitors get directed towards,
- Have a services 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 need to build a blog built on a separate domain, or added to an existing website to better market your services, or help your authority and expertise in your specific niche.
- Or you may need a combination of the above or something else entirely …
Write down your goals on your worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are documenting this information.
After you have written your list, go through the list and choose the goal that is most important to you.
Write down this goal on your flowchart (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 in your process chart as “Goal 2” and “Goal 3“.
You’ve probably heard the old business 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 processes. It’s important, therefore, that you continually refer to your marketing plan to make sure that you will have the resources and capabilities to implement the strategies that will 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 down on your planning sheet, go back 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 measure your site’s performance? How will you know if your web site is helping you achieve your business goals?
For example, your web site’s objective could be to help you get a certain number of leads to submit an enquiry each week using your site’s contact form, or getting “X” new members 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 re-evaluate these as more feedback is collected from your website from your users.
Step 2 – Your Website Name
Once you have clearly identified your goals, the next step is to come up with an appropriate name for your web 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 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 company name), especially if the name isn’t something that immediately brings up your products or services to mind. Remember, most online users have never heard about you.
Put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes. Who would be looking online for the very thing your company sells? 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 clients.
Note: You can be creative and clever with the name, but it’s best to avoid being “too creative”. This also goes for choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. It can be a fun or quirky site name, but it’s best to try and avoid names that can 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 easily 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 your site to come up in.
For example, if you are planning to start a food blog, doing a quick online search for “cooking blog” reveals a number of great site names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, ”Shockingly Delicious”, “The Rambling Spoon” and more …
(Research name ideas for your site)
So … this is the time to get inspired. Make a huge list of potential names and then start narrowing the list down.
After reducing your list of names down to the most likely choices, repeat the same process as above to craft a description, tagline or slogan for your website.
Make your description concise and inform the reader with as few words as possible what your website is all about. For example, in one of the cooking blogs 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 web site’s name and description can also be useful.
Once you have completed this step, the next step is to look at your domain name. If you plan to add a blog to your existing web site and decide that your blog should have its own domain name, 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 containing the keyword that you want to rank well for in the search engines), expired domain names (a domain that the previous owner has decided not to renew and that can be registered again, different top level domain names and domain name extensions, etc.)
Tip: Subscribe to our site to learn more about cost-effective strategies on registering domains and tips on developing and implementing your digital marketing strategy.
Step 3 – Manage Your Site’s Technology
Once you have chosen a name and description for your website, the next step is to develop a clear plan specifying how to manage the technology that is going to host, support and help power your web marketing vehicle.
We strongly recommend using WordPress.
(Use WordPress to build your website or blog)
WordPress is not only a robust platform to build a website or blog with, but it is also easy-to-manage and great for non-technical users.
WordPress is also the world’s leading web content management system, and, as you can see from the screenshot below, WordPress powers over 40% of the world’s CMS-driven websites.
(WordPress is the world’s leading Content Management System (CMS))
A WordPress site is ideal for publishing your content and communicating with visitors and potential clients.
A business web site or blog built using WordPress 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, especially if you have little to no technical web skills. In fact, no coding is required to publish content on a WordPress site, and managing tasks like data backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.
In fact, many large companies, small to medium businesses, educational institutions, organizations and even celebrities no longer use a traditional website built using static website building applications. More sites are now being powered using technologies like WordPress, which provides businesses and their users with all of the features 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 you should consider building your website or blog with WordPress.
Web Site Hosting And Web Site Management
As well as choosing to build your site with the WordPress CMS platform, you should also plan where you are going to host your website, and whether you are going to hire others to manage your site, or manage your website or blog yourself.
(Hosting & Website Management)
We use and recommend WordPress for most business needs, and we provide a lot more information about the WordPress CMS and expert advice on subjects like domain name registration, webhosting and website management in other articles on this site.
If you need more help or advice choosing a technology platform for your website, just contact us for assistance.
Step 4 – Define Your Website Target Audience
Once you have the initial planning steps we’ve discussed above figured out, then the next step is to define who your target audience is.
Key information about your site’s target audience includes the following:
- Audience demographics
- What they need and want
- What problems your target audience is having, or will experience in the future
- How prefer to consume digital information
- How they generally tend to see themselves
- What they expect from you and your site
It’s vitally important that you spend time creating as accurate a profile of your target audience as you can. Try to picture the actual person that you will be communicating directly with when presenting your content to.
Begin this process by asking important questions, such as:
- Who is your ideal reader for your site?
- What kind of information will visitors look for on your website?
- What difficulties are your users going to experience that your website or blog will help to solve online? What specific solutions are people searching online for similar problems?
- Are your target users technology-savvy? How will your visitors consume digital information? Will they prefer videos to images 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 regularly in order to keep your target audience engaged?
- Where do they live? Can geography and factors like occupation, religion or gender impact the success of your site? If so, what segments of the population will your website be marketing to and how will you find these demographics online?
- How do your target users see themselves? Who does your audience engage online with? What music are they listening to? What else do they buy, or consume online?
- What do your visitors expect from your site? What kind of information are you willing to provide to them freely or for a fee? What kind of information are you unwilling to provide online for free?
Being able to accurately define your website’s key target audience 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 in developing your website, and help to ensure that you get a better end product.
- If you don’t have access to accurate research data about your target audience, then start with a “best guess” based on your experience and research.
- Don’t narrow things too much. You could be going after 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 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 an audience that is just too broad, 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 section.
This is the end of Section 1
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