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 1 of a three-part series of articles designed to help you understand the website planning process.

Are you thinking about getting a website built for your small business?

One of the many decisions you have to make is if you should build this site yourself, or get someone to help build your site.

Both choices have pros and cons. Whichever option you decide will depend on many things such as:

  • Allocated funds for website development
  • Time
  • Your needs
  • Level of urgency
  • Your technical skills
  • Your level of commitment to supervise and manage the project
  • And many other factors …

If you have a small budget and you want to save money, you could opt to create the web site yourself, but it goes without saying that you will need to invest time figuring out how to put everything 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

Understanding The Website Planning Process

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

The Website Planning Process Explained - A Practical Blueprint For Business Owners

Website planning is regarded by many online business strategists to be the most important part in building a successful web site. Taking some time to carefully plan your web site at the beginning can help you prevent costly errors later and create a better end product.

Below, you will find a comprehensive primer 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 business website or blog, and give you tips on how to brief your web designer to make sure that you end up with a website that will truly suit your needs and budget.

Important

Important: Before even thinking of setting up a website or registering a domain for your digital business, it is absolutely vital that you first invest a little time rethinking your marketing strategy.

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

The Website Planning Process Made Simple

So … you need a web presence.

Let’s start, then, by gaining a better understanding of the website planning process.

Take a look at the process chart below, and let’s work through the information in this post together.

Note: To view a larger image click on the image or the link below the flowchart.

A Practical Guide To Web Site Planning For Business Owners

(click here to enlarge image)

To make the process easier to follow, we recommend downloading and printing the Website Planning Chart below.

After downloading and printing out the flowchart, grab some 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 – Goals

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

Come up with answers to the following questions:

  • What kind of website do you want to build? Will it be a corporate website, e-commerce site, a sales blog, or some other kind of site?
  • What specific objectives do I expect my site to help me achieve?

For example, your goal could be to:

  • Sell products or services online – you might want to build an online shop. Depending on your goals, this could also require setting up a secure site (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), adding a private product download area exclusively for your registered users, etc.
  • Build a list of subscribers – 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 visitors get directed to,
  • 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 will need to build a business blog built on a separate domain, or added to your existing website to better market your services, or help grow your authority and expertise in your target market.
  • Or you may need a combination of the above or something else entirely …

Record all your goals on your worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are recording this process.

Once you have written your list, go through the list and choose the goal that is most important to you.

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

Now, review 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 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 ton of additional responsibilities on your plate.

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

So, with this in mind, take a moment to complete the following right now:

Once you have identified at least 1-3 goals and written these in your process chart, return 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 site is helping you achieve your business goals?

For example, your web site’s goal could be getting a specific target amount of leads each week using the contact form on your site, or signing up “X” numbers of members per quarter, etc …

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 re-evaluate these once more data is gathered from your site from visitors.

Step 2 – Naming Your Site

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

Brainstorm ideas 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 the obvious (i.e. your business name), especially if your business 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 an online user. Who would be searching online for the very thing 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 the name, but try to avoid being “too creative”. 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 it’s best to avoid website names that could be made to sound offensive (and definitely stay away from trademarked or registered names or phrases – you’ll just be inviting trouble!)

If you go online, you can quickly find out what other companies in your industry or niche are naming their sites. Study your competitors, especially sites that occupy the search results that you would like to own.

For example, if you are planning to start a blog related to food, a quick search online for “cooking blog” reveals a number of memorable site names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, “A Chef’s Daughter”, ”Worth The Whisk” and more …

Research ideas for your website's name

(Researching ideas for the name of your website)

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

After reducing this list of names down to the most likely contenders, repeat the same process as above to craft a description, tagline or slogan for your website or blog.

Make your description concise and inform the reader in as few words as possible what your web site is all about. For example, in one of the food sites we came across while searching online, their 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.

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

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

Tip

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

Step 3 – Manage Your Website’s Technology

Once you have chosen a name and description for your website, the next step is to create a clear plan outlining how to manage the technology that is going to host, support and drive your web marketing vehicle.

We encourage you to consider getting your site built with WordPress.

Use WordPress to build your site

(Build your site with 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 leading CMS platform, 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 widely used Content Management System (CMS)

(WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS (Content Management System))

A WordPress-based site is ideal for publishing content and communicating information about your business to your users and potential clients.

A website or blog driven by WordPress lets you interact with online users and makes things like posting content, special offers, promotions, news and announcements about your 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 essential tasks like file and data 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 are now being powered by “blogging” software like WordPress, which can provide businesses and their users with all of the functionality and capabilities of regular websites.

If you want to have control of your own web marketing and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn technical “web code” languages such as HTML, then you should consider building your website or blog with WordPress.

Hosting & Managing Your Site

In addition to using to build your website using the WordPress CMS platform, you should also decide where you are going to host your site, and whether you are going to hire someone else to manage your web presence, or manage everything yourself.

Hosting & Web Management

(Web Hosting And Web Site Management)

Practical Tip

We use and recommend WordPress for many business applications, and we provide a lot more detailed information about the benefits of using the WordPress CMS and information on areas like domain name registration, webhosting and website management in other sections on this site.

If you need more help, just contact us for assistance.

Step 4 – Defining Your Website Target Audience

Once you have figured out the basic planning steps discussed so far, then the next step is to define who your website’s target audience is.

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

  • Audience demographics
  • What your audience needs and wants
  • Any problems they have, or will experience in the future
  • How they like to consume digital information
  • How they generally tend to view themselves
  • What they may expect from you and your site

It’s important to try and create as accurate a profile of your target website visitors as possible. Try to picture the actual person that you will be communicating directly with and presenting your information to.

Begin this process by asking questions, like:

  • Who will you be writing to?
  • What kind of information will visitors be searching for on your site?
  • What issues and challenges are your visitors going to experience that the content you provide on your website can help them solve online? What types of solutions are people searching online for these issues?
  • Are your target users technology-savvy? How will your site users consume information? Does your audience prefer video 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 often in order to engage your target audience?
  • Where are they located? Could geography and factors like occupation, religion or gender impact the success of your website? If so, what segments of the population will your web site be marketing to and how will you find these demographics online?
  • How do they see themselves? Who does your target audience form online relationships with? What magazines and books do they read? What else do they buy, or consume online?
  • What does your audience expect from your site? What kind of information are you willing to provide online freely or for a fee? What kind of information are you unwilling to provide online for free?

Being able to define your site’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 great website that you will truly be happy with.

Practical Tip

  • If you don’t have access to accurate research information about your target audience, then start with your “best guess” based on your experience and whatever research you can get your hands on.
  • Try not to 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 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, don’t try to make your web site be “everything to everyone”, 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.

Planning Your Web Site - A Money-Saving Primer For Non-Technical 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 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.