This is Part One of a 3-part article series designed to help you understand the website planning process.
Are you considering the idea of taking your small business online?
One of the most important decisions you need to make is whether or not to build your web site yourself, or get someone to help build your site.
Both choices have pros and cons. Whichever option you pick will depend on many factors like:
- Your financial situation
- Your business priorities
- How soon you need your site to be up and running
- Your technical skills
- 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 build the site yourself, but it goes without saying that you will need to spend some time learning how to put your site together.
How To Plan Your Website – Understanding The Process
Whether you choose to build a website yourself or get someone else to build it for you, the first important step is to get some good planning done. In this blog post we explain in simple terms why better website planning can help your business and what to do before investing in web development.
Planning your website is regarded by many online business strategists as being the most important aspect of building a successful website. Careful planning in the early stages of your business development process will help you avoid costly errors later and create a better end product.
Below, you will find a comprehensive blueprint for non-technical users designed to help you better understand your website planning process. We will also cover the do’s and don’ts of planning a business website, and give you tips on how to brief your website designer to make sure that you end up with a website that will perfectly meet your budget, suit your needs and deliver you great results online.
Important: Before setting up a website or registering a domain name for your web site, it’s highly recommended that you first research your market.
Building a successful presence online requires more than just having a professional website or business blog built. It also requires in addition to a number of other things, a commitment to developing and implementing an ongoing web marketing strategy.
The Site Planning Process Made Simple
So … you need a website.
Let’s start, then, by understanding the website planning process.
Take a look at the diagram below, and let’s go through the information on this page together.
Note: Click on the image or the link below the image to enlarge the chart.
To make the process easy to follow, we recommend that you download and print the Website Planning Flowchart shown above.
Once you have downloaded and printed 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 take you through the process. Also, make sure to shut out all distractions over the next 30-45 minutes.
Step 1 – Website Goals
No matter what type of website you want to build, the first step is to define clear goals for your web site and make these as specific as possible.
Ask yourself the following:
- What kind of website am I planning to build? Will it be a business website, an e-commerce site, a sales blog, or some other kind of site?
- What do you want this site to help you achieve?
For example, your goal could be to:
- Sell products or services online – you may want an online web store. Depending on your goals, this could also require adding a private product download area that only customers can access.
- 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 youronline traffic get directed towards,
- Have a portfolio site that will help build credibility and trust for your brand or organization, post news, announcements or updates, etc.
- Get more exposure online for your existing business – you might need a business blog built on a separate domain, or added to an existing website to engage with users and keep customers informed about your latest product updates, or help your authority and expertise in your target market.
- Or something else …
List whatever it is that you want your website to help you achieve 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 your business.
Write 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“.
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 to add a ton of additional 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 continue to refer to your marketing plan to make sure that you will have the resources and capabilities to implement the strategies that will help you achieve your goals.
So, with this in mind, take a moment to complete the following right now:
After listing at least 1-3 goals and written these in your process chart, go back to “Goal 1” and ask yourself this question: “how will I measure this goal?”
In other words, what benchmarks will you use to evaluate your website’s performance? How will you know if your website is helping your business achieve your goals?
For example, your web site’s goal could be to help you get a specific number of leads each week through your site’s contact form, or getting “X” number of new newsletter subscribers per quarter, etc …
Also, 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: Keep your goals as flexible as possible at this stage, so you can adjust these once more feedback is gathered from visitors.
Step 2 – Name Your Web Site
Once you have clearly identified your goals, the next step is to come up with an appropriate name for your website.
This is another important step of the website planning process, so take your time to think carefully about coming up with a good name for 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 company 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 your ideal customer. 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 potential clients.
Note: You can be creative and clever with your name, but it’s best to avoid being “too clever”. This also can be said about choosing a catchy, memorable or a stand out name. It can be a fun or quirky site name, but it’s best to try and avoid website names 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 competition, especially those who occupy the search results that you would like to own.
For example, if you are thinking of starting 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”, “Shockingly Delicious”, “The Rambling Spoon” and more …
So … now is the time to get inspired. Make a huge list of possible names and then narrow this list down.
After narrowing the list of names down to the most likely candidates, repeat the same process as above to craft 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 website is all about. For example, in one of the food sites we came across while searching online, the blog’s description was “Fast, Fresh, and Simple Recipes Easy Enough for Tonight’s dinner.”
Include keywords in your site’s name and description.
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 feel that this blog should be its own entity, go ahead 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 that contain the key phrase you want to rank well for in search engines), expired domain names (domain names that the previous owners have decided not to renew and that can be registered once more, different top level domains and domain name extensions, etc.)
Tip: Subscribe to this site to learn more about practical strategies on registering domains and tips on how to develop your website marketing strategy.
Step 3 – Managing Your Technology
After choosing a name and description for your web site, the next step is to develop a clear plan specifying how you are going to manage the technology that is going to host, support and help you power your website.
We strongly recommend building your site 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 CMS platform, and, as you can see from the screenshot below, WordPress powers almost half of the world’s CMS-driven websites.
A WordPress website is ideal for publishing your content and communicating information about your business to your existing and potential clients.
A website or blog powered by the WordPress platform allows you to interact better with online users, 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. In fact, no coding is required to publish content on a WordPress site, and managing tasks like backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.
In fact, many businesses no longer use static websites built using traditional website building tools. More websites are now being powered with WordPress, which can provide businesses and their users with all of the features and capabilities of a regular website.
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 technical “web coding” languages such as HTML, then you should consider choosing a WordPress-powered business website or blog.
Hosting And Management
In addition to using to build your site with the WordPress CMS platform, you should also think about where you are going to host your site, and if to let others manage your web site, or manage your own site.
We use and recommend WordPress for many business uses, and we also provide more information about WordPress and information on areas like how to register domain names, what to look for in a good webhost and website management in other articles on this site.
If you need more help or advice with this step, don’t hesitate to contact us for assistance.
Step 4 – Your Website Target Audience
After you have gone through the basic planning steps above, then it’s time to define who is your site’s target audience.
Key information about your target audience includes:
- Audience demographics
- Their needs and wants
- What kind of problems they are experiencing, or will face in the future
- How prefer to consume digital information
- How they see themselves
- What they can expect from you or your business
It’s very important that you try and create as accurate a profile of your target audience as possible. Try to picture the actual person that you will be communicating directly with when presenting your information to.
Begin this process by asking lots of questions, such as:
- Who will your site’s content be addressed towards?
- What kind of information will visitors be looking for on your website or blog?
- What problems and challenges are your visitors going to face that your site can help them solve online? What types of solutions are people searching online for similar issues?
- Are your visitors technology-savvy? How does your audience consume digital information? Does your audience prefer videos to visual content like images or graphics and text? Will they need downloadable content (e.g. price lists, schedules, timetables)? Will you need to create content like videos, audios or multimedia presentations regularly in order to keep your site users engaged?
- Where are they located? Is geographical location or factors like occupation, relationship status or income level, significant to the success of your website? If so, what segments of the population will your website be marketing to and how will you find these demographics online?
- How do your site users see themselves? Who does your target audience engage online with? What music do they listen to? What else do they buy, or consume online?
- What will your site users 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 online 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, which will then ensure that you get a better end product.
If you don’t have access to accurate research information about your target audience, then start with a “best guess” based on your experience and research.
Also, try not to limit your criteria 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.
Finally, unless you plan to build a portal website and have the resources to do so, don’t try to make your website or blog appeal to an audience that is just too broad, or youâ€™ll just end up creating a ton of extra work for yourself when it comes to populating your website with content, as you will see when we continue exploring the website planning process in another section.
This is the end of Section 1
To read Part 2 of this article, click here:
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Disclaimer: We are not associated with WordPress or any of the WP products written about on this site. We may derive a financial benefit from sales of products advertised, reviewed or linked to from this site. All information on this page have been supplied from the plugin’s own website and websites that provide Premium WordPress Services
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