This is Part 1 of a three-part series of articles designed to help you understand how to plan your website or blog.
Are you considering the idea of getting a website or blog built for your business?
One of the many decisions you need to make is whether or not to build the web site yourself, or get someone else to create your website.
Both choices have pros and cons. Whichever option you decide will depend on various factors like:
- Your budget
- Your business needs and priorities
- How quickly you need your site to be up and running
- Your technical skills
- Your level of commitment to manage and complete the project
- And many other factors …
If your budget is limited and you want to save money, you could opt to build your website yourself, but it goes without saying that you will need to invest some time figuring out how to put everything together.
A Basic Guide To Website Planning
Whether you choose to build a website yourself or get it built by someone else, the first crucial step is to plan your website. In this article we explain in simple terms why better web site planning can help your business and how to save money getting a web site.
Website planning is regarded by many web strategists to be one of the most important parts of building a successful business online. Taking some time to plan your website upfront helps to avoid costly mistakes later and can help you create a better end product.
In this post, we provide a comprehensive primer for business owners aimed at helping you better understand your website planning process. We will also cover what to do and what not to do when planning a website or blog, and give you tips on how to talk to your web designer to ensure that you end up with the exact type of website that you need.
Important: before you even think of setting up a website or registering a domain for your web site, it is absolutely vital that you first do a little market research.
Developing a successful online business presence requires more than getting a professional website built. It requires amongst lots of other things, a commitment to developing and implementing an ongoing web marketing strategy.
The Site Planning Process Explained
So … you need a web presence.
Let’s start, then, by understanding the website planning process.
Study the flowchart below, and let’s work through the information on this page together.
Note: To view a larger image click on the image or the link below the chart.
To make the process easier to follow, we recommend downloading and printing the Website Planning Process Flowchart shown above.
CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO DOWNLOAD A PDF VERSION OF THE FLOWCHART
Once you have downloaded and printed out the website planning process chart, grab some 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 30-35 minutes.
Step 1 – Your Goals
No matter what kind of site you are planning to build, the first step is to define a clear goal for your site and make these goals as specific as possible.
Ask yourself the following:
- What kind of web site do you want to build? Will it be a corporate web site, e-commerce site, a sales blog, or some other kind of site?
- What specific objectives would I like this website to help me achieve?
For example, your goal could be to:
- Sell products or services online – you may need an e-commerce website. Depending on your goals, this could also require adding a private membership area that only customers can access.
- 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 of your traffic get directed to,
- Have a services site that will help build credibility and trust for your brand or organization, post news, announcements or updates to staff, etc.
- Get more exposure online for your existing business – you will need a 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 specific niche.
- Or something else …
Write down whatever it is that you want your website to help you achieve on your worksheet, a blank sheet of paper, or wherever you are documenting this process.
After your goals have been written down, go through your list and pick the goal that has overriding importance above all others.
Write down 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 record these in your planning sheet 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?
Adding a website is going to pile on a whole lot of extra responsibilities on your plate.
Your website planning process is an integral aspect of your business marketing planning processes. It’s important, therefore, that you continually refer to your marketing plan to make sure that you will have the resources and capabilities to implement the strategies to help you achieve your goals.
So, with this in mind, do the following right now:
After deciding on at least 1-3 goals and written these in your planning chart, return to “Goal 1” and ask yourself this question: “how will I measure this goal?”
In other words, what metrics will you use to evaluate your site’s performance? How will you know if your website is on track to help you achieve your business goals?
For example, your website’s objective could be to help you get a certain number of leads each week via your site’s contact form, or getting “X” amount of opt-in subscribers per quarter, 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.
Note: It’s also important to keep your goals as flexible as possible at this stage, so you can readjust these once more feedback is gathered from your website from your site users.
Step 2 – Naming Your Site
After you have clearly identified your website’s goals, the next step is to come up with an appropriate name for your web site.
This is another important step of the website planning process, so take your time and think carefully about what you are going to name your site.
Brainstorm ideas 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 company name), especially if your name isn’t something that immediately brings up your products or services to mind. Remember, most online users have never heard of you.
Put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer. 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 users.
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 it’s best to avoid web site names that can sound offensive (and definitely stay away from trademarked or registered names or phrases – you’ll just be asking for 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 your site to come up in.
For example, if you are thinking of starting a cooking blog, doing a quick online search for “cooking blog” reveals a number of great blog names like: “Smitten Kitchen”, “Cooking With Amy”, “A Chef’s Daughter”, “Worth The Whisk” and more …
So … now is the time to get inspired. Make a big list of potential names and then begin narrowing these down.
After narrowing your list of names down to the best choices, 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 the 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 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 decide that your business blog should have its own domain name, 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 phrase that you would like to rank highly for in the search engines), expired domain names (a domain that the previous owners have decided not to renew and that can be registered once more, other 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 developing a successful web marketing strategy.
Step 3 – Managing Your Web Technology
After settling on a name and description for your website, the next step is to create a clear plan to manage the technology that will host, support and help you drive your site.
We recommend choosing 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 widely used CMS platform, and, as you can see below, WordPress powers over 48% of the world’s CMS-driven websites.
A WordPress website or blog provides an ideal online technology platform for publishing content and communicating your business information to your visitors and potential customers.
A website or blog driven by the WP CMS platform allows you to interact 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 necessary tasks like site backups and software upgrades can easily be automated.
In fact, many businesses no longer use a traditional website built using traditional website building tools. More sites around the world are now being powered by WordPress, which provides businesses and their users with all of the functions and capabilities of a regular website.
If you want to have better management and control of your business online and don’t have the time, need or desire to learn technical “web development” languages such as HTML, then you should consider building your website or blog using WordPress.
Hosting And Managing Your Web Site
As well as using to build your site with the WordPress content management system (CMS), you should also decide who is going to host your website, and if you are going to let others manage your website, or manage the web site yourself.
We use and recommend WordPress for many website uses, and we also provide more detailed information about the benefits of using the WordPress CMS and information on subjects like how to register domain names, webhosting and website management in other blog posts on this site.
If you need more help choosing your technology platform, don’t hesitate to contact us for assistance.
Step 4 – Defining Your Website Audience
After you have the basics of your site figured out, then it’s time to define who is your target audience.
Key information about your target audience should include the following:
- Audience demographics
- What your audience needs and wants
- Any problems your target audience is experiencing, or will face in the future
- How prefer to consume digital information
- How they generally see themselves
- What they expect from you and or your business
It’s vitally important that you try and create as accurate a profile of your target visitors as possible. Try to picture the ideal person that you will be communicating directly with when presenting your information to.
Begin this process by asking questions, like the following:
- Who will your site’s content be addressing?
- What will visitors be searching for on your web site?
- What issues are your users going to face that the content you plan to provide will help them solve online? What types of solutions are people searching online for these problems?
- Are your ideal users technology-savvy? How will your site users consume digital 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 often in order to keep your target audience engaged?
- Where are they located? Will geography and factors like education, relationship status or gender affect the success of your business? If so, what segments of the population will your web site be marketing to and how will you target these demographics online?
- How do your site users see themselves? Who do your target users engage online with? What music are they downloading? What else do they buy, or consume online?
- What do visitors 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 to them for free?
Being able to accurately define your website’s target audience is an important step in the website planning process and it will help you communicate better with the web developer and everyone else assisting you with your website, which will then ensure that you end up with a website that will perfectly meet your budget and suit your needs.
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 whatever research you have done.
Also, 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 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 too broad an audience, or you’ll just end up creating a ton of extra work for yourself when it comes to populating your site with content, as you will see when we continue exploring the website planning process in another section.
This is the end of Part 1
To read Part Two of this article, click here:
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