Are you thinking about taking your business online?
One of the many decisions you have to make is if you should build this web site yourself, or get someone to help build your website.
Both choices have pros and cons. Whatever option you decide will depend on a number of other factors such as:
- What kind of a budget you have allocated for marketing
- Your business priorities
- Sense of urgency
- Your level of technical skill
- Your level of commitment to manage and complete the project
- and so on …
If your budget is limited and you want to save money, you could choose to develop the web site yourself, but it goes without saying that you will then need to invest time learning how to put things 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
A Basic Guide To Web Site Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners
Whether you decide to build a website yourself or get it built by someone else, the first crucial step is to plan your website. In this article, we explain the importance of website planning and how to save money getting a website for your business.
Website planning is considered by many online business strategists as being the most important part in building a successful website. Investing time to plan your web site upfront helps to avoid costly mistakes later and also help create a better end product.
In this post, we provide a comprehensive guide 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 website developer to make sure that you end up with a website that will perfectly meet your budget and suit your needs.
Important: Before setting up a website or registering a domain name for your site, it’s highly recommended that you first research your market.
Building a successful business presence online requires more than just having a professional website and business blog built. It also requires other things, a commitment to developing and implementing an ongoing digital marketing strategy.
The Site Planning Process Explained
So … you need a web presence.
Let’s start, then, by understanding the website planning process.
Study the flowchart below, and let’s work step-by-step through the information in this post together.
Note: Click on the image or the link below the image to enlarge the flowchart.
To make this process easy to follow, we recommend downloading and printing the Website Planning Process Flowchart below.
Once you have downloaded and printed out the website planning process chart, grab a few sheets of 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 over the next 15-60 minutes.
Step 1 – Defining Your Goals
No matter what type of web site you choose to build, the first step is to define one or more goals for your website and make it as specific as possible.
Come up with answers to these questions:
- What kind of web site are you planning to build? Will it be a corporate web site, a portfolio site, a marketing blog, or some other kind of website?
- What specific objectives would you like this website to help you achieve?
For example, your main goal could be to:
- Sell products or services online – you might need to build an e-commerce website. Depending on your needs, this could also include setting up a secure site (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), adding a private download area that only registered users can access, etc.
- Build a list of subscribers – you might want a simple site built with a “squeeze” page (landing page) or a lead generation form where all online traffic gets sent to,
- Have a portfolio site that will help build credibility and trust for your brand or organization, post news, announcements, or information about company events, etc.
- Get more exposure online for your existing business – you might want to look at getting a blog built on a separate domain, or added to your existing website to engage with users and keep customers informed about your latest product updates, or help assert your authority and expertise in your target market.
- Or you may need a combination of the above or something else entirely …
List all your website goals on your worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are documenting this process.
Once your goals have been written down, go through the list and select the goal that has overriding importance above all others.
Write down this goal in your worksheet (in “Your Website Goals” section) as “Goal 1“.
Now, return to your list and repeat this process to find two more goals and list these on your worksheet 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?
Building a website is going to to add a ton of additional things you will need to manage.
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 have the resources and capabilities to implement any strategies you set to help you achieve your goals.
So, with this in mind, take a moment to complete the following right now:
Once you have listed at least 1-3 goals and written these down in your planning chart, go back to “Goal 1” and ask yourself this question: “how will I measure this goal?”
In other words, what metrics are you going to use to assess your website’s performance? How will you know if your web site is on track to help you achieve your business objectives?
For example, your site’s goal could be getting a specific number of leads to submit an inquiry each week via your site’s contact form, or getting “X” number of new members per month, 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.
Note: It’s also important to keep your goals as flexible as possible at this stage, so you can adjust these once more information is collected from visitors.
Step 2 – Your Site Name
After you have clearly identified your website’s goals, the next step is to name your web site.
This is another important part of 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. Call a few customers (or potential customers if you haven’t launched your business yet) and get their input.
Try to think beyond just using the name of your company, especially if your 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 product or service you sell? What would they be typing into a search engine or browser to find you? Once you know this answer, 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 clever”. the same goes for choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. It can be a fun or quirky name, but it’s best to avoid website names that can 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 competitors, especially sites that occupy the search results that you would like to show up in.
For example, if you are planning to start a cooking blog, a quick online search for “cooking blog” reveals some memorable blog names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, ”Shockingly Delicious”, ”Worth The Whisk” and more …
(Research ideas for your website’s name)
So … now is the time to get inspired. Make a big list of possible names and then narrow the list down.
After you have narrowed this list down to the best choices, repeat the same process as above to create a description, tagline or unique value proposition for your website or blog.
Your description should be concise and inform the reader in as few words as possible what your website or blog is all about. For example, in one of the food sites we came across while doing research, the blog description was “Fast, Fresh, and Simple Recipes Easy Enough for Tonight’s dinner.”
Include keywords in your web site’s name and description.
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 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 web site. For example, you can register keyword-rich domain names (i.e. domains that include the keyword that 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 can be registered once more, other top level domains and domain name extensions, etc.)
Tip: Subscribe to our site for useful strategies on registering domains and tips on developing your web site marketing strategy.
Step 3 – Managing Your Site’s Technology
After deciding on a name and description for your site, the next step is to develop a clear plan outlining how you are going to manage the technology that is going to host, support and help power your online business vehicle.
We encourage you to consider building your site with WordPress.
(Use WordPress to build your website)
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 most popular web content management system, and, as you can see from the screenshot below, WordPress powers almost half of the world’s CMS-driven websites.
(WordPress - the world’s leading Content Management System (CMS))
A WordPress-driven website provides an ideal online application platform for publishing your content and communicating your business information to your visitors and potential customers.
A website or blog built using the WordPress platform lets you interact better with online users 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. In fact, no coding is required to publish content on a WordPress site, and managing necessary tasks like site backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.
Many large companies, small to medium businesses, institutions, organizations and well-known brands, in fact, no longer use a static website built using traditional website building applications. More sites around the world are now being powered using technologies like WordPress, which can provide businesses and their users with all of the features and capabilities of a regular website.
If you want to control your business online and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn technical “web development” languages such as HTML, then you should consider choosing a WordPress-powered business website or blog.
Hosting & Web Site Management
In addition to using WordPress to power your site, you should also decide where you are going to host your site, and whether you are going to let someone else manage your web presence, or manage your web site yourself.
(Hosting And Website Management)
We use and recommend WordPress for many website applications, and we provide more detailed information about the WordPress CMS and information on subjects like domain name registration, webhosting and website management in other articles on this site.
If you need help choosing a technology platform for your website, just contact us for assistance.
Step 4 – Your Target Audience
Once you have the initial planning steps we’ve discussed above worked out, then the next step is to define who is your target audience.
Key information about your site’s target audience should include:
- What they need and want
- What problems your audience experiences, or will face in the future
- How they consume information
- How they generally tend to view themselves
- What they might expect from you or your business
It’s important to try and create as accurate a profile of your target website visitors as you can. Try to picture the ideal person that you will be communicating directly with when presenting your information to.
Begin this process by asking lots of questions, like the following:
- Who is the ideal reader for your site?
- What kind of content will users be searching for on your web site?
- What difficulties are people experiencing that you can help to solve online? What types of solutions are people searching online for similar issues?
- Is your target audience technology-savvy? How will your visitors 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 visual, audio or multimedia content often in order to engage your audience?
- Where are they located? Will geography and factors like age, religion or income level impact the success of your business? 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 your visitors see themselves? Who does your target audience engage online with? What magazines and publications are they reading? What else do they buy, or consume online?
- What will your target audience 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 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 with your website, and ensure that you get a website that will perfectly meet your budget, suit your needs and deliver you the type of results you want.
- If you don’t have access to accurate market information about your target audience, then start with your “best guess” based on your experience and research.
- Don’t narrow your criteria too much. You could be going after a niche that is just too small, or an online opportunity that may not be viable.
- 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 website be “everything to everyone”, 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 Part 1
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