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. 

Website DevelopmentThis is Part One of a 3-part article series designed to help you understand the website planning process.

Are you considering the idea of getting a web site for your business?

One of the many decisions you have to make is whether or not to build your web site yourself, or get someone to help create your site.

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

  • Budget size
  • How much time you can put into the project
  • Your priorities
  • Sense of urgency
  • Your level of technical skill
  • Your level of commitment to supervise and manage the project
  • etc …

If your budget is limited and you want to save money, you could decide to develop your web site yourself, but it goes without saying that you will need to spend some time learning how to put things together.

Practical 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

Planning Your Website – A Basic Guide

Whether you decide to build a website yourself or get it built by someone else, the first important step is to get some website planning done. In this post, we explain the importance of planning your business website and what to do before you spend your money getting a web site.

A Cost-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning For Non-Technical Business Owners

Planning your website or blog is regarded by many online experts as being one of the most important aspects of building a successful web site. Careful planning in the early stages of your business development process helps to prevent costly errors later and also help create a better end product.

Below, we have compiled a comprehensive practical guide for non-technical users aimed at helping you better understand the process of planning your website. 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 website developer to make sure that you get a website that will perfectly meet your budget, suit your needs and deliver you the type of results you want.

Useful Information

Important: Before setting up a website or registering a domain for your digital business, it is highly recommended that you first research your market.

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

The Site Planning Process Made Simple

So … you have decided that you need a website.

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 work through the information in this section together.

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

Planning Your Business Web Site - A Useful Guide For Non-Technical Business Owners

(click here to enlarge image)

To make this process easy to follow, we recommend downloading and printing the Website Planning Flowchart below.

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 walk you through the process. Also, make sure to shut out all distractions for the next 15-60 minutes.

Step 1 – Your Goals

Regardless of the kind of website you want to build, the first step is to define clear goals for your website and make it as specific as you can.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What kind of website are you planning to build? Is it a corporate website, e-commerce site, a marketing blog, or some other kind of site?
  • What specific objectives do I expect to achieve with the site?

For example, your main goal could be to:

  • Sell products or services online – you may need to build an online shop. Depending on your plan, this may include purchasing or installing an SSL certificate to create a secure website (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), the addition of a membership site that only your registered users can access, etc.
  • Capture new leads – you might want 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 directed towards,
  • Have a corporate site that will help build credibility and trust for your brand or professional services, 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 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 …

Record as many goals and objectives as you can think of for your site on your 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 select the goal that has overriding importance above all others.

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

Now, review your list and repeat this process to find two more goals and record these on your process chart as “Goal 2” and “Goal 3“.

Info

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 pile on a ton 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 marketing plan to make sure that you 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:

After listing at least 1-3 goals and written these in your flowchart, go back to “Goal 1” and ask yourself this question: “how am I going to measure this goal?”

In other words, what metrics will you use to measure your web site’s performance? How will you know if your site is helping you achieve your goals?

For example, your web site’s goal could be getting a specific number of leads to submit an inquiry each week through your site’s contact form, or signing up “X” numbers of list subscribers 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.

Useful Tip

Note: Keep your goals as flexible as possible at this stage, so you can adjust these once more feedback is collected on your site from your site users.

Step 2 – Your Web Site Name

Once you have clearly identified your website’s goals, the next step is to name your site.

This is an important step in the website planning process, so take your time and think carefully about what you are going to name your site.

Brainstorm ideas with others. Get in touch with 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 never heard of you.

Put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes. Who would be looking online for the very thing you sell? What would they be typing into a search engine or browser to find you? Once you know the answer, try to come up with a name that would entice your prospects.

Note: You can be creative and clever with your name, but try to avoid being “too clever”. This also can be said about choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. You can have a fun or quirky name, but avoid names 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 to appear in.

For example, if you are planning to start a cooking blog, a quick search online for “cooking blog” reveals some great site names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, “A Chef’s Daughter”, “The Rambling Spoon” and more …

Research name ideas for your website

(Researching ideas for your website or blog’s name)

So … this is the step where you can get inspired. Make a huge list of names and then begin narrowing these down.

After you have narrowed the list of names down to the most likely candidates, repeat the same process as above to craft a description, tagline or slogan for your web site.

Your description should be concise and inform the reader with as few words as possible what the website or blog is all about. For example, in one of the food blogs we came across while doing research, the site description was “Fast, Fresh, and Simple Recipes Easy Enough for Tonight’s dinner.”

Include keywords in your web site’s name and description.

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 your blog should have its own domain name, by all means 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 containing the keyword you want to rank 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 more, other top level domains and domain name extensions, etc.)

Tip

Tip: Subscribe to our site to learn more about useful strategies on registering domains and tips on how to develop and implement a successful web marketing strategy.

Step 3 – Managing Your Technology

Once you have chosen a name and description for your web site, the next step is to create a clear plan to manage the technology that will host, support and help you power your website.

We highly recommend building your website with WordPress.

Build your website with the WordPress CMS

(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 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 is the world's leading Content Management System

(WordPress is the world’s leading Content Management System)

A WordPress website or blog provides an ideal online application platform for publishing content and communicating your business information to existing and potential customers.

A website or blog built using the WP platform allows you to better interact with site visitors and makes things like posting content, special offers, promotions, news and announcements about your products, 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 backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.

Many large companies, small to medium businesses, educational institutions, organizations and well-known brands, in fact, no longer use a traditional website built using traditional website building technologies. More websites around the world are now being powered with “blogging” software 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 own web marketing and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn “web development” languages such as HTML, then you should consider choosing a WordPress-powered business website or blog.

Hosting & Managing Your Website

In addition to choosing WordPress to power your site, you should also decide how you are going to host your site, and if to let somebody else manage your site, or manage everything yourself.

Web Site Hosting And Website Management

(Hosting And Web Management)

Practical Tip

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

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

Step 4 – Your Audience

After you have the initial planning steps we’ve discussed so far worked out, then it’s time to define who is your site’s target audience.

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

  • Demographics
  • What your audience needs and wants
  • Problems your target audience is facing, or will face in the future
  • How prefer to consume information
  • How they generally see themselves
  • What they will expect from you and your site

It’s vitally important that you spend time creating as accurate a profile of your ideal site users as possible. Try to picture the actual person that you will be communicating directly with and presenting your information to.

To work through this process, begin by asking lots of questions, like:

  • Who is your ideal reader for your web site?
  • What kind of information will users look for on your web site?
  • What issues are people experiencing that your business can help to solve online? What specific solutions are people searching online for similar issues?
  • Are they technology-savvy? How does your target audience consume 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)? Will you need to create content like videos, audios or multimedia presentations to engage your target audience?
  • Where are they located? Will geography, or factors like education, relationship status or gender play an important role in the success of your site? If so, what segments of the population will your web site be marketing to and how will you find and target these demographics online?
  • How do your site users see themselves? Who do your site users interact online with? What videos are they watching? What else do they buy, or consume online?
  • What will people 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 an important 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 ensure that you get a better end product.

Tip

  • If you don’t have access to accurate market research data about your target audience, then start with a “best guess” based on your experience and research.
  • Don’t limit your criteria 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 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 website 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 learn when we continue exploring the website planning process in another section.

How To Plan Your Small Business Web Site: A Money-Saving Blueprint For Non-Technical Business Owners

(Source: Pixabay)

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"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and the author of The Small Business Digital Manager. 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.