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 site DesignThis is Part 1 of a 3-part series of articles about how to plan your website.

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

One of the most important decisions you have to make is whether or not to build your website yourself, or get someone else to help build your web site.

Both options have pros and cons. Whatever choice you pick will depend on a number of factors such as:

  • Your budget and finances
  • Time
  • Your priorities
  • Sense of urgency
  • Your technical skills
  • Your level of commitment to manage and complete the project
  • And many other factors …

If you have a small budget and you want to save money, you could opt to develop the site yourself, but it goes without saying that you will need to invest some time figuring out how to put things together.

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 an e-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 Basic Guide To Website Planning

Whether you choose to build a website yourself or get someone 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 planning your web site and what to avoid doing when planning a web site.

The Website Planning Process: A Basic Blueprint For Business Owners

Website planning is regarded by many online marketing strategists as being one of the most important aspects of the process of getting a website built. Taking some time to plan your site in the early stages of your business development process will help you prevent costly errors later and create a better end product.

Below, we have compiled a comprehensive primer for business owners designed to help 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 ensure that you end up with a website that will truly suit your needs and budget.

Important Info

Important: Before even thinking of setting up a website or registering a domain name for your web site, it’s vitally important that you first research your market.

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

The Website Planning Process Explained

So … you need an online presence.

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

Study the flowchart below, and let’s go through the information in this post together.

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

The Website Planning Process Explained - A Comprehensive Guide For Non-Technical Business Owners

(click here to view larger flowchart)

To make the process easy to follow, we recommend downloading and printing the Website Planning Process Flowchart 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 jot down your thoughts and ideas as we walk you through the process. Also, make sure that you will not have any distractions over the next 20-60 minutes.

Step 1 – Website Goals

No matter what kind of site you are planning to build, the first step is to define one or more clear goals for your web site and make it as specific as you can.

Ask yourself the following:

  • What kind of website am I planning to build? Will it be a corporate website, an e-commerce site, a sales 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 want an e-commerce site. Depending on your needs, this could also require purchasing or installing an SSL certificate to create a secure site (i.e. changing your site from ‘http’ to ‘https’), adding a private product download area that only registered users can access, etc.
  • Build a list of subscribers – you may want a simple site built with a “squeeze” page (landing page) or a lead generation form where all online traffic gets sent to,
  • Have a services site that will help build credibility and trust for your professional services or brand, post news, announcements, and updates, etc.
  • Get more exposure online for your existing business – you may want to build a business blog built on a separate domain, or added to your existing website to better promote 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 …

Write down all of your website goals on your Website Planning worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are recording this information.

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

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

Now, review your list and repeat this process to find two more goals and list these in your flowchart 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?

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 continue to refer back to your business marketing plan to make sure that you 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:

Once you have listed at least 1-3 goals and written these down on your planning sheet, return to “Goal 1” and ask yourself this question: “how will I measure this goal?”

In other words, what objective criteria are you going to use to assess your web site’s performance? How will you know if your site is helping you achieve your business objectives?

For example, your site’s objective could be to help you get a certain target amount of leads every week via the contact form on your site, or signing up “X” new membership sales 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.

Practical Tip

Note: It’s also important to keep your goals as flexible as possible at this stage, so you can modify these once more information is gathered on your site from visitors.

Step 2 – Your Web Site Name

After you have clearly identified your goals, the next step is to come up with an appropriate name for your web site.

This is another important step in the website planning process, so take your time to think carefully about coming up with a good name for 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 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 probably never heard of you.

Put yourself in the shoes of an online user. 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 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”. This also goes for choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. You can have a fun or quirky name, but avoid names that could 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 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 thinking of starting a food blog, a quick online search for “cooking blog” reveals some catchy 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 site’s name)

So … now is the time to get inspired. Make a huge list of possible names and then start narrowing the list down.

After narrowing this list of names down to the most likely contenders, repeat the same process as above to create a description, tagline or unique value proposition for your website or blog.

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

Including keywords in your website’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 site and feel that this 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 names for your web site. For example, you can register keyword-rich domain names (i.e. domains that include the keyword you want to rank for in the search engines), expired domain names (a domain name that the previous owner has decided not to renew and that can be registered again, other top level domain names and domain name extensions, etc.)

Useful Tip

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

Step 3 – Manage Your Web Technology

After choosing a name and description for your website, the next step is to develop a clear plan to manage the technology that will host, support and help power your site.

We highly recommend building your website with WordPress.

WordPress

(Build your website or blog with WordPress)

WordPress is not only a robust and secure platform to build a website with, but it is also easy-to-manage and great for non-technical users.

WordPress is also the world’s most popular content management system (CMS), and, as you can see from the screenshot below, WordPress powers almost half of the world’s CMS-driven websites.

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

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

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

A business site or blog created with the WordPress CMS platform allows you to engage 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. No coding is, in fact, required to publish content on a WordPress site, and managing things like file and data backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.

Many large companies, small to medium businesses, institutions, organizations and even celebrities, in fact, no longer use a traditional website built using static website building technologies. More sites are now being powered by technologies like WordPress, which provides businesses and their users with all of the features and capabilities of regular websites.

If you want to have control of your business online and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn “web code” languages such as HTML, then we recommend that you consider building your website or blog with WordPress.

Web Site Hosting And Website Management

In addition to using to build your website or blog using WordPress, you should also decide how you are going to host your site, and if you plan to outsource your website management to professionals, or manage your own site.

Web Hosting And Site Management

(Hosting And Site Management)

Useful Tip

We use and recommend WordPress for many business uses, and we provide a lot more detailed information about the WordPress CMS and tips on subjects like how to register domain names, finding a good host and website management in other articles on this site.

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

Step 4 – Define Your Audience

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

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

  • Demographics
  • What your audience needs and wants
  • What kind of problems your audience has, or will have in the future
  • How they like to consume information
  • How they generally tend to view themselves
  • What they may expect from you or your site

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

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

  • Who will your site’s content be addressing?
  • What kind of content will users look for on your web site?
  • What challenges are people experiencing that your website or blog will help them solve online? What specific solutions are people searching online for similar problems?
  • Are your visitors technology-savvy? How does your audience consume digital information? Will they prefer video to visual content like images or graphics and text? Will they need downloadable content (e.g. price lists, schedules, timetables)? Do you need to create visual, audio or multimedia content to keep your audience engaged?
  • Where are they located? Is geographical location or factors like occupation, religion or income level, important to the success of your business? If so, what segments of the population will your site be marketing to and how will you target these demographics online?
  • How do they see themselves? Who do your target users interact online with? What magazines and books do they read? What else are they buying or consuming online?
  • What does your audience expect from your site? What kind of information are you willing to provide online for free or for a fee? What kind of information are you unwilling to provide online for free?

Having the ability 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 the web developer and everyone else assisting you in developing your website, which will then ensure that you get a website that will truly suit your needs and budget.

Useful Tip

  • 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 research.
  • Try not to limit things 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 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 post.

The Website Planning Process Explained: A Comprehensive Guide For Business Owners

(Source: Pixabay)

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Practical Tip

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Originally published as Website Planning Process – Part 1.