This is Part One of a three-part article series about the website planning process.
Are you thinking about taking your small business online?
If so, one of the many decisions you need to make is whether or not to build your website yourself, or get someone else to help create your website.
Both choices have pros and cons. Whichever choice you pick will depend on various things like:
- Budget size
- How much time you can put into this area
- Your priorities
- Sense of urgency
- Your skill level
- Your level of commitment to supervise and manage the project
- and so on …
If your budget is limited and you want to save money, you could decide to create the site yourself, but it goes without saying that you will then need to spend time learning how to put it all 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 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
The Website Planning Process
Whether you choose to build a website yourself or get someone else to build it for you, the first crucial step is to do some website planning. In this article, we explain in simple terms the importance of web site planning and what to do before investing in web site development.
Proper website planning is considered by many web strategists to be the most important part in the process of getting a website for your business. Careful planning upfront helps to avoid costly mistakes later and can help create a better end product.
In this article, we provide a comprehensive guide for business owners that will help you better understand the process of planning your website. We will also cover the dos and don’ts of planning a website, and give you tips on how to brief your web designer to ensure that you get a website that will truly suit your needs and budget.
Important: Before setting up a website or registering a domain name for your site, it’s highly recommended that you first spend a little time re-evaluating your marketing strategy.
Building a successful business presence online requires more than just getting a professional web site set up. It requires amongst a number of other things, a commitment to develop and implement an ongoing web site marketing strategy.
The Site Planning Process Made Simple
So … you need a web presence.
Let’s start, then, with an overview of the website planning process.
Take a look at the 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 chart.
To make this process easy to follow, you will want to download and print the Website Planning Chart below.
After downloading and printing 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 take you through the process. Also, make sure that you will not have any distractions over the next 25-35 minutes.
Step 1 – Define Your Site Goals
Regardless of the type of web site you choose to build, the first step is to define one or more goals for your web site and make these as specific as you can.
Come up with answers to the following:
- What kind of website do I want to build? Will it be a business website, a portfolio site, a personal blog, or some other kind of website?
- What do you expect this site to help you achieve?
For example, your goal could be to:
- Sell products or services online – you might need a site with e-commerce facilities. Depending on your needs, this could also include purchasing or installing an SSL certificate to create a secure site (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), adding a private membership area that only registered users can access, etc.
- Capture new leads – you might want to look at getting 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 sent to,
- Have a portfolio site that will help build credibility and trust for your professional services or brand, post news, announcements, or updates, etc.
- Get more exposure online for your existing business – you might need to build a blog built on a separate domain, or added to your existing website to better market your services, 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 all of your goals 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 pick the goal that is most important to you.
Write this goal in your worksheet (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 in 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?
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 processes. It’s important, therefore, that you continually refer back to your business 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:
Once you have listed at least 1-3 goals and written these down in your flowchart, go back to “Goal 1” and ask yourself this question: “how will I 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 web site’s goal could be to help you get a specific target amount of leads each week using the contact form on your website, or signing up “X” number of new list 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.
Note: It’s also important to keep your goals as flexible as possible at this stage, so you can re-evaluate these once more information is collected from users.
Step 2 – Name Your Site
Once you have clearly identified your website’s goals, the next step is to name your website.
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. 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 business name), especially if the name isn’t something that immediately brings up your products or services to mind. Remember, most online users have probably never heard of you.
Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal user. Who would be searching online for the very product or service 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 clever”. the same can be said about choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. You can have a fun or quirky site name, but avoid anything that may sound offensive (and definitely stay away from trademarked or registered names or phrases – you’ll just be inviting 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 food blog, doing a quick online search for “cooking blog” reveals some catchy blog names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, “A Chef’s Daughter”, ”Worth The Whisk” and more …
(Researching name ideas for your site)
So … now is the time to get inspired. Make a big list of potential names and then start narrowing these down.
After narrowing the list of names down to the best choices, repeat the same process as above to craft a description, tagline or unique value proposition for your web site.
Make your description concise and inform the reader in as few words as possible what your site is all about. For example, in one of the food sites we came across while searching online, the site 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 website and decide that your business blog should be its own entity, 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 that contain the key phrase you want to rank for in the search engines), expired domain names (a domain name that the previous owners have decided not to renew and are now available for registration once more, other top level domain names and domain name extensions, etc.)
Tip: Subscribe to our site to learn more about useful strategies on registering domains and tips on developing your web marketing strategy.
Step 3 – Managing Your Website’s Technology
After settling on a name and description for your site, the next step is to develop a clear plan to manage the technology that will host, support and power your online business vehicle.
We strongly encourage you to consider building your website with 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 leading web content management system, and, as you can see from the screenshot below, WordPress powers over 48% of the world’s CMS-driven websites.
(WordPress - the world’s most popular Content Management System)
A WordPress-based site provides an ideal digital application platform for publishing content and communicating your business information to users and potential customers.
A business web site or blog powered by the WordPress CMS platform allows you to better interact with online users 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. 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.
In fact, many businesses no longer use their websites using traditional website building tools. More websites around the world are now being powered using “blogging” software like WordPress, which can provide businesses and their users with all of the functionality and capabilities of regular websites.
If you would like to have better control your business online and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn technical “web coding” languages such as HTML, then you should consider building your website or blog with WordPress.
Hosting And Managing Your Web Site
In addition to choosing WordPress to drive your website, you should also think about how you are going to host your site, and if you are going to let professionals manage your site, or manage your own site.
(Web Site Hosting & Site Management)
We use and recommend WordPress for many business applications, and we also provide a lot more detailed information about the benefits of using WordPress and expert advice on areas like domain name registration, choosing a good webhost and website management in other sections on this site.
If you need more help choosing a technology platform for your website, feel free to contact us for assistance.
Step 4 – Your Site’s Audience
After you have completed the initial steps above, then the next step is to define who will be your website’s target audience.
Key information about your site’s target audience should include the following:
- Needs and wants
- Any problems your audience is facing, or will encounter in the future
- How they consume digital information
- How they generally see themselves
- What they can expect from you or your business
It’s important to try and create as accurate a profile of your target users as you can. Try to picture the ideal person that you will be communicating directly with and presenting your information to.
Begin this process by asking lots of questions, such as:
- Who will your content be addressing?
- What will visitors be searching for on your website or blog?
- What difficulties are people experiencing that the information you provide can help to solve online? What types of solutions are people searching online for similar issues?
- Are your site users technology-savvy? How will your visitors consume information? Will they prefer videos 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 continually to engage your target users?
- Where are they located? Will geographic location, or factors like occupation, relationship status or income level play a significant role in the success of your site? If so, what segments of the population will your site be marketing to and how will you find these demographics online?
- How do your site users see themselves? Who do they typically form online relationships with? What magazines and books do they read? What else are they buying or consuming online?
- What does your target 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 key 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 ensure that you get a better result in the end.
- If you don’t have access to accurate research data about your target audience, then start with your “best guess” based on your experience and whatever research you have 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 worth pursuing.
- 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 appeal to too broad an audience, or you’ll just end up putting yourself in an untenable position when it comes to populating your website with content, as you will learn when we continue exploring the website planning process in another section.
This is the end of Part 1
To continue reading this article, click on the link below:
Subscribe To Our Site And Get Notified Of New WordPress Tutorials!
"This is AMAZING! I had learnt about how to use WordPress previously, but this covers absolutely everything and more!! Incredible value! Thank you!" - Monique, Warrior Forum