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 DesignThis is Part One of a three-part article series about the website planning process.

Are you considering the idea of taking your small business online?

If so, one of the most important decisions you need to make is whether or not to build your website yourself, or get someone else to help create the website for you.

Both choices have pros and cons. Whatever choice you decide will depend on a number of other factors such as:

  • Budget
  • Time
  • Your priorities
  • How urgently you need your site to be up and running
  • Your technical skills
  • Your level of commitment to supervise and manage the project
  • and so on …

If you have a small budget and you want to save money, you could choose to create your site yourself, but it goes without saying that you will then need to spend some time figuring out how to put your site 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 – What You Need To Know First

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 blog post, we explain why better web site planning can help your business and what to do before building a web site.

A Money-Saving Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners

Planning your web site is regarded by many web business experts as being the most important aspect of the entire process of getting your website built. Careful planning at the beginning helps to prevent costly mistakes later and also help you create a better end product.

Below, you will find a comprehensive blueprint for non-technical users aimed at helping you better understand the process of planning a website for your business. We will also cover the do’s and don’ts of planning a business website, and give you tips on how to brief your web designer to make sure that you end up with a website that will perfectly meet your budget and suit your needs.

Useful Info

Important: before you even think of setting up a website or registering a domain name for your online presence, it is vitally important that you first spend a little time doing market research.

Building a successful business presence online requires more than getting a professional website and business blog built. It also requires amongst lots of other things, a commitment to develop and successfully implement an ongoing online marketing strategy.

The Website Planning Process Simplified

So … you have decided that you need an online presence.

Let’s start, then, by gaining a better understanding of 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: To view a larger image click on the image or the link below the chart.

A Practical Guide To Website Planning For Business Owners

(click to view larger flowchart)

To make the process easy to follow, we recommend that you download and print the Website Planning Process Chart below.

After downloading and printing out the flowchart, grab some sheets of paper and a pen, or whatever you use to take notes, 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 25-60 minutes.

Step 1 – Defining Your Site Goals

Regardless of the kind of web site you want to build, the first step is to define a clear goal for your site and make these as specific as you can.

Come up with answers to the following:

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

For example, your goal could be to:

  • Sell products or services online – you may need to build an e-commerce website. Depending on your plan, this could require setting up a secure site (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), adding a private membership area that only your customers 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 a lead generation form where all online traffic gets directed to,
  • Have a corporate site that will help build credibility and trust for your brand or professional services, post news, announcements, or updates, etc.
  • Get more exposure online for your existing business – you might need a 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 grow your authority and expertise in your target market.
  • Or you may need a combination of the above or something else entirely …

List your web site goals on your Website Planning 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 pick the goal that has overriding importance above all others.

Write down this goal on 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 record these in your planning chart as “Goal 2” and “Goal 3“.

Information

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 a subset of your business marketing planning process. 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 in your process chart, go back 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 web site is helping you achieve your business objectives?

For example, your site’s objective could be getting a certain number of leads to submit a new inquiry each week via the contact form on your website, or getting “X” new membership sales per week, 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.

Tip

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

Step 2 – Naming Your Website

Once you have clearly identified your site’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 and think carefully about what you are going to name your site.

Brainstorm your ideas or mastermind 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 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 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 prospects.

Note: You can be creative and clever with the name, but it’s best to avoid being “too creative”. The same advice goes for choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. It can be a fun or quirky name, but it’s best to try and avoid anything that may 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 are naming their sites. Study your competition, especially those who occupy the search results that you would like to appear in.

For example, if you are thinking of starting a food blog, doing a quick online search for “cooking blog” reveals some memorable site names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, ”Shockingly Delicious”, “The Rambling Spoon” and more …

Research name ideas for your web site

(Research ideas for the name of your website or blog)

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

After narrowing your list down to the most likely contenders, repeat the same process as above to create a description, tagline or unique value proposition for your web site.

Your description should be concise and inform the reader with as few words as possible what your site is all about. For example, in one of the food sites 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.

After completing this step, it’s time to look at your domain name. If you plan to add a blog to your existing site and feel that this blog should be its own entity, by all means register a new domain name for your site.

There are different strategies you can use to register domains for your website. For example, you can register keyword-rich domain names (i.e. domains that include the keyword phrase 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 are available to be registered again, other top level domain names and domain name extensions, etc.)

Tip

Tip: Subscribe to this site to learn more about useful strategies on registering domains and tips on developing and implementing your digital marketing strategy.

Step 3 – Managing Your Site’s Technology

After settling on a name and description for your site, the next step is to come up with a clear plan for managing the technology that will host, support and help you power your website.

We strongly recommend getting your site built with WordPress.

WordPress

(WordPress)

WordPress is not only a robust and secure 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 widely used content management system (CMS), and, as you can see from the screenshot below, WordPress powers over 45% 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 (CMS))

A WordPress-driven website is ideal for publishing your content and communicating with users and potential clients.

A business web site or blog built using WordPress allows you to better interact 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 necessary tasks like site 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 choose to build their websites using traditional website building applications. More websites are now being powered with WordPress, which provides businesses and their users with all of the features and capabilities of regular websites.

If you would like to have better management and control of your business online and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn “web coding” languages such as HTML, then you should consider building your website or blog using WordPress.

Hosting And Web Management

In addition to using WordPress to power your website, you should also decide who is going to host your site, and if you are going to hire somebody else to manage your web site, or manage the web site yourself.

Hosting & Website Management

(Hosting And Web Site Management)

Useful Tip

We use and recommend WordPress for many business applications, and we provide more information about the benefits of using the WordPress CMS and expert advice on subjects like how to register domain names, webhosting and website management in other blog posts on this site.

If you would like more help choosing your technology platform, feel free to contact us for assistance.

Step 4 – Define Your Website Target Audience

After you have gone through the initial planning steps above, then it’s time to define who your website’s target audience will be.

You want to know key information about your site’s target audience, such as:

  • Audience demographics
  • Their needs and wants
  • Any problems your audience has, or will have in the future
  • How prefer to consume information
  • How they see themselves
  • What they might expect from you or your business

It’s important to try and create as accurate a profile of your ideal site users as possible. Try to picture the actual person that you will be communicating directly with when presenting your content to.

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

  • Who will your site’s content be addressed to?
  • What will visitors search for on your website?
  • What issues are people experiencing that you can help to solve online? What specific solutions are people searching online for these issues?
  • Are your site users technology-savvy? How does your target audience consume information? Does your audience prefer videos to images and text? Will they need downloadable content (e.g. price lists, schedules, timetables)? Will you need to create visual, audio or multimedia content continually to engage your site users?
  • Where are they located? Is geographical location or factors like age, relationship status or income level, significant to the success of your site? 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 target users see themselves? Who do your visitors interact online with? What music are they downloading? What else do they buy, or consume online?
  • What will they 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?

Having the ability to define your website’s key target audience 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 in developing your website, and help to ensure that you end up with the exact type of website that you want.

Practical Tip

  • If you don’t have access to accurate data about your target audience, then start with a “best guess” based on your experience and whatever research you manage to get done.
  • Try not to narrow your scope 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 webhostingautomatic 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 site appeal to too broad an audience, or you’ll just end up creating a ton of extra work for yourself when it comes to populating your website with content, as you will learn when we continue exploring the website planning process in another section.

How To Plan Your Small Business Web Site - A Practical Primer For Business Owners

(Source: Pixabay)

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This is the end of Part 1

To continue reading this article, click here:

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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.