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. 

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Web DevelopmentThis is Part One of a 3-part article series about how to plan your website or blog.

Are you thinking about taking your business online?

If so, one of the many decisions you have to make is whether or not to build your website yourself, or get someone else to create your website.

Both choices have pros and cons. Whichever option you pick will depend on a number of factors such as:

  • Budget amount
  • Time
  • Your needs and priorities
  • How urgently you need your website to be up and running
  • Your skill level
  • Your level of commitment to supervise and manage the project
  • And many other factors …

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

Useful 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

A Money-Saving 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 plan your website. In this blog post, we explain why better website planning can help your business and what to do before you spend your money getting a website built for your business.

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

Website planning is considered by many online experts as being the most important part in building a successful web site. Careful planning upfront will help you avoid costly mistakes later and create a better end product.

Below, you will find a comprehensive practical guide for non-technical users aimed at helping you better understand your website planning process. We will also cover the dos and don’ts of planning a website, and give you tips on how to brief your website developer to make sure that you end up with a website that will deliver you the kind of results you expect.

Useful Information

Important: Before setting up a website or registering a domain for your digital business, it’s absolutely vital that you first research your market.

Building a successful online business presence requires more than getting a professional web site built. It also requires other things, a commitment to developing and implementing an ongoing online marketing strategy.

The Site Planning Process Explained

So … you have decided that you need a website.

Let’s start, then, by understanding the website planning process.

Take a look at the flowchart below, and let’s go step-by-step through the information in this section together.

Note: Click on the image or the link below the image to enlarge the image.

Planning Your Small Business Web Site: A Practical Primer For Non-Technical Business Owners

(click here to enlarge flowchart)

To make the process easy to follow, we recommend downloading and printing the Website Planning Process Flowchart shown above.

Once you have downloaded and printed out the website planning flowchart, grab a few sheets of paper and a pen, or whatever you use to take notes, 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 15-45 minutes.

Step 1 – Your Website Goals

No matter what kind of site you decide to build, the first step is to define one or more goals for your website and make it as specific as possible.

Try to answer the the following questions:

  • What kind of web site do you want to build? Will it be a business web site, an e-commerce site, a personal blog, or some other kind of website?
  • What specific objectives would I like to achieve with the website?

For example, your goal could be to:

  • Sell products or services online – you might need to build an e-commerce website. Depending on your objectives, this may include setting up a secure site (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), the addition of a membership area that only customers can access, etc.
  • Capture new leads – you may need a simple site built with a “squeeze” page (landing page) or a direct sales letter where all of your online traffic gets directed towards,
  • Have a corporate site that will help build credibility and trust for your brand or professional services, post news, announcements, or updates to staff, etc.
  • Get more exposure online for your existing business – you may want to look at getting a business blog built on a separate domain, or added to your existing website to interact with users and keep customers informed about your latest product updates, or help establish your authority and expertise in your specific niche.
  • Or you may need a combination of the above or something else entirely …

List whatever goals you want your web site to help you achieve on your Website Planning worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are recording this information.

After your goals have been written down, go through the list and choose the goal that is most important to you.

Write down this goal in your planning sheet (in “Your Website Goals” section) as “Goal 1“.

Now, go back over your list and repeat this process to find two more goals and write these down on your process chart as “Goal 2” and “Goal 3“.

Info

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?

Owning a website is going to pile on a whole lot of additional responsibilities on your plate.

Your website planning process is an integral aspect of your business marketing planning processes. It’s important, therefore, that you continue to refer back to your business marketing plan to make sure that you have the resources and capabilities to implement the strategies to help you achieve your goals.

So, with this in mind, let’s do the following right now:

Once you have identified at least 1-3 goals and written these down in your planning chart, return to “Goal 1” and ask yourself this question: “how am I going to measure this goal?”

In other words, what benchmarks will you use to assess your website’s performance? How will you know if your web site is helping your business achieve your goals?

For example, your site’s objective could be to help you get a specific number of leads to submit an inquiry each week via the contact form on your site, or getting “X” new newsletter subscribers per quarter, 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.

Useful Tip

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 users.

Step 2 – Your Web Site Name

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 an important part of the website planning process, so take your time and think carefully about what you are going to name 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 just using the name of your company, especially if the 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 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 prospects.

Note: You can be creative and clever with your name, but it’s best to avoid being “too clever”. The same advice goes for choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. You can have a fun or quirky site name, but it’s best to avoid web site names 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!)

Go online and do a little research to 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 planning to start a cooking blog, a quick online search for “cooking blog” reveals some great blog names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, “A Chef’s Daughter”, “The Rambling Spoon” and more …

Researching ideas for your website or blog's name

(Researching ideas for your website’s name)

So … now is the time to get inspired. Make a big list of potential names and then narrow this list down.

After reducing your list down to the best choices, repeat the same process as above to craft a description, tagline or slogan for your website.

Your description should be concise and inform the reader in 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.”

Include keywords in your website’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 website and feel that your blog should have its own domain name, then register a new domain name for your site.

There are different strategies you can use to register domains names for your site. For example, you can register keyword-rich domain names (i.e. domains that include the key phrase you would like to rank for in search engines), expired domain names (a domain that the previous owners have decided not to renew and are available for registration again, different top level domains and domain name extensions, etc.)

Tip

Tip: Subscribe to our site for useful strategies on registering domains and tips on developing and implementing a successful web marketing strategy.

Step 3 – Managing Your Technology

Once you have decided on a name and description for your web site, the next step is to come up with a clear plan specifying how to manage the technology that is going to host, support and help power your site.

We recommend building your site with WordPress.

WordPress

(Build your website or blog with the WordPress Content Management System)

WordPress is not only a robust web-building platform, 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 over 40% of the world’s CMS-driven websites.

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

(WordPress - the world’s most widely used Content Management System (CMS))

A WordPress-powered site is ideal for publishing content and communicating with visitors and potential customers.

A business web site or blog built using WordPress lets you interact with online users and makes things like posting content, special offers, promotions, news and announcements about your product or services, 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 things like file and data backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.

In fact, many businesses no longer use static websites built using traditional website building tools. More sites around the world are now being powered by 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 have better management and control of your own web marketing and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn technical “web development” languages such as HTML, then we recommend that you consider using a WordPress-powered business website or blog.

Hosting & Managing Your Website

In addition to choosing to build your web site with the WordPress content management system (CMS), you should also think about who is going to host your site, and if to hire someone else to manage your website, or manage everything yourself.

Hosting And Web Site Management

(Hosting & Web Site Management)

Useful Tip

We use and recommend WordPress for many website uses, and we also provide a lot more detailed information about the benefits of using WordPress and expert advice on areas like domain name registration, how to find a good webhost and website management in other sections on this site.

If you need more help or advice with this step, please contact us for assistance.

Step 4 – Defining Your Website Audience

Once you have completed the basics above, then the next step is to define who will be your site’s target audience.

Key information about your site’s target audience should include the following:

  • Audience demographics
  • What they need and want
  • What problems your target audience faces, or will face in the future
  • How prefer to consume digital information
  • How they view themselves
  • What they may expect from you or your site

It’s important to spend time creating as accurate a profile of your ideal website visitors as you can. Try to picture the ideal person that you will be communicating directly with when presenting your content to.

Begin this process by asking questions, like the following:

  • Who will you be writing for?
  • What will users search for on your website or blog?
  • What problems are people experiencing that your site can help them solve online? What specific solutions are people searching online for these issues?
  • Are your ideal users technology-savvy? How will your users consume digital information? Will they prefer videos to images and text? Do they need downloadable content (e.g. price lists, schedules, timetables)? Do you need to create content like videos, audios or multimedia presentations regularly in order to engage your target users?
  • Where do they live? Is geographical location or factors like occupation, relationship status or income level, significant to the success of your website? 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 target audience engage online with? What magazines and books are they downloading? What else do they buy, or consume online?
  • What will your audience expect from your site? What kind of information are you willing to provide to them for free or for a fee? What kind of information will you not be providing to them 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 your web developer and everyone else assisting you with your website, and help to ensure that you get a website that will perfectly meet your budget, suit your needs and deliver you great results online.

Tip

  • If you don’t have access to accurate information about your target audience, then start with a “best guess” based on your experience and whatever research you have done.
  • Don’t narrow 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 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 webhostingautomatic 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 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 see when we continue exploring the website planning process in another section.

The Web Site Planning Process - A Useful Guide For Business Owners

(Source: Pixabay)

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This is the end of Part 1

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the owner of WPCompendium.org and the author of The WordPress User Manual. 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.